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Big Air Package: Christo installs sculpture inside the former gas tank in Oberhausen
Christo, Big Air Package at the Gasometer in Oberhausen, 2013. Photo: Wolfgang Volz.

OBERHAUSEN.- 14 years after showing “The Wall” during the Emscher Park International Building Exhibition, Christo yesterday presented a new extraordinary work of art created especially for the Gasometer Oberhausen. The internationally acclaimed artist installed his “Big Air Package” inside the 117-meter-high industrial building. It is the largest indoor sculpture ever made.

“Big Air Package, Project for Gasometer Oberhausen, Germany” was conceived in 2010 by Christo and will be on view from March 16 to December 30, 2013. The sculpture, which is installed inside the former gas tank, was made from 20,350 square meters of semitransparent polyester fabric and 4,500 meters of rope. The inflated envelope is 90 meters high and 50 meters in diameter. It has a total weight of 5.3 tons and a volume of 177,000 cubic meters.

The “Big Air Package” nearly spans the distance from wall to wall of the Gasometer, leaving only a small passage to walk around the sculpture. Two air fans creating a constant pressure of 27 pascal (0.27 millibar) keep the package upright. Airlocks allow visitors to enter the package. Illuminated through the skylights of the Gasometer and 60 additional projectors, the work of art creates a diffuse light throughout the interior. Inside the sculpture, an extraordinary experience of shape, space and light is provided.

“When the Big Air Package was finally installed, it was absolutely unexpected what I saw. The fabric very much transports the light. You are virtually swimming in light when you are inside the Big Air Package,” the 77-year-old artist describes his latest work of art, which is the first one realized without his late wife and artistic partner Jeanne Claude. “The inner space is probably the most unique aspect of all the Air Packages that we did since 1966. When experienced from the inside, that space is almost like a 90-meter-high cathedral.”

Christo and Jeanne-Claude realized their first sculpture involving air in 1966 in the Dutch town of Eindhoven. Their last air package was erected at documenta IV in Kassel in 1968. It stood 85 meters tall, with a diameter of 10 meters and a volume of 5,600 cubic meters.

Retrospective exhibition spanning five decades
“Big Air Package” is accompanied by an additional exhibition in the ground floor of the Gasometer, which shows a selection of the most important projects Christo and Jeanne-Claude realized during the last five decades at various places around the world. Large-sized photographs, films and sketches revive those fascinating but always temporary works of art. The many photographs by Wolfgang Volz show the projects’ beauty and visionary approach. Christo: “All interpretations of our works are legitimate, but there is no purpose other than to create something beautiful. Jeanne-Claude would always say, ‘we only do works of joy and beauty.’”

Wolfgang Volz, who helped realizing many of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s past projects, is the project director for the „Big Air Package“; Peter Pachnicke is the curator of the retrospective exhibition.

“The Wall” and the “Big Air Package”
In 1999, Christo and Jeanne-Claude created their first indoor installation for the Gasometer Oberhausen: a wall made from 13,000 oil barrels, 26 meters high and spanning the distance from wall to wall of the Gasometer. The mosaic of colored barrels left a huge impression on the visitors, who entered the dark gas tank. The Gasometer Oberhausen, Europe’s highest exhibition space, is the first location selected by Christo twice for realizing a work of art.

“It is a great pleasure and honor for us that Christo decided to use this extraordinary space a second time. We are not exaggerating when we say that we currently host one of the most sensational works of art at the Gasometer Oberhausen,” Jeanette Schmitz, Managing Director of the Gasometer Oberhausen GmbH, says. “We run and finance this former industrial building for 18 years now. Up to now, we already had five million visitors, who saw our various exhibitions. The ‘Big Air Package’ turns the dark and cold industrial building into a light and transparent space. Being inside the ‘Big Air Package’ will be a really transcendental experience for all visitors.”.

Christo‘s original designs in the LUDWIGGALERIE in Schloss Oberhausen
During the period of the exhibition, seven original design drawings of the Big Air Package will be on display in the cabinet of the LUDWIGGALERIE in Schloss Oberhausen. These predominantly large-format works provided the model for the Big Air Package. They were produced in Christo‘s New York studio and show the development of the idea during the years 2010 up to its implementation in 2013. The LUDWIGGALERIE in Schloss Oberhausen can be reached easily at a short walking distance from the Oberhausen Gasometer.

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