Christo’s ‘The Floating Piers’ Allows Visitors To ‘Walk On Water’ On Italian Lake

Christo has finally mastered the impossible. Anyone can now walk on water with his most recent installation, The Floating Piers. Located in Northern Italy on Lake Iseo, the instillation opened just this weekend.

Totally funded by the sale of the Bulgarian artist’s original artwork, this 16-day installation was first dreamt up 46 years ago by Christo and his late wife and collaborator, Jean-Claude. Featuring 220,000 high-density polyethylene floating cubes completely covered up in 100,000 yards of glistening waterproofed orange material, the 14-inch tall cubes are attached together to form a floating bridge that is nearly two miles long. As the pier sits just above water, it gives visitors the feeling that they are walking on water. The piers themselves are about 17.5 yards wide, with sloping sides, allowing for a lot of room for the throngs of visitors and curiosity seekers expected to experience this incredible wonder of the world. As always, Christo puts all of himself and his late wife Jean-Claude into all of his artistic endeavors.

“Each project is like a slice of our lives and part of something that I will never forget.”

Visitors are encouraged to take off their shoes and feel the texture of the fabric as they walk along the soft piers. This is not just a piece of art to view, but one to interact with. Christo, whose full name is Christo Javacheff, has considered the physical possibilities when experiencing this piece of art.

“It’s really a physical thing, you need to be there, walking it, on the streets, here. And it’s demanding.”

The Floating Piers allows visitors first time access to walk from Sulzano to Monte Isola and then onto the island of San Paolo. In addition, the orange fabric continues past the pier for just over a mile. The bright fabric is secured onto the pedestrian walkways as the fabric snakes into the towns of Peschiera Maraglio and Sulzano, beyond the original art installation.

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As always, Christo spoke to the media about his work of art. He takes pride in creating free art for everyone to experience and become transformed, even for a brief moment in time. The price for The Floating Piers is estimated to cost just under $17 million, generously paid by the 81-year-old artist from the sales of his collages and original drawings. For visitors, this experience is free to all that come out to Lake Iseo.

“Like all of our projects, The Floating Piers is absolutely free and accessible 24 hours a day – weather permitting, There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. [They] are an extension of the street and belong to everyone.”

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The bright saffron-orange is reminiscent of Christo’s last public installation, The Gates, in Central Park, in 2005. This New York City exhibition became the subject of a Peabody Award-winning, HBO documentary of the same name. In this public installation, Christo and Jean-Claude installed 7,503 saffron-colored, vinyl “gates” along 23 miles of Central Park pathways, working in front of a huge crowd of curious New Yorkers. Visitors had 13 days in February to check out the exhibition. The vibrant nylon fabric created a lot of brightness during one of the grungiest times of the year. Although some late night New York-based late night comics made fun of the gate, many people interviewed reacted positively and really enjoyed the gates.The inspiration behind The Gates was the tradition of Japanese torii gates placed at the entrances to Shinto shrines, such as at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, Japan.

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While Christo has created art to share with the masses, he admits that it was really for himself and for Jean-Claude.

“I know these projects are totally irrational, totally useless. The world can live without them, nobody needs them, only me and Jean-Claude. She always made the point that they exist because we like to have them, and if others like them, it’s only a bonus.”

Christo’s first large-scale project will continue through July 3, weather permitting, with an estimated 40,000 daily visitors expected to experience this impossibly spectacular feat of walking on water, courtesy of Christo.

[Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images]