Kaldor Public Art Project 1: Christo and Jeanne-Claude Wrapped Coast – One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, 28 October – 14 December 1969. Photo: Harry Shunk.

That Time An Art Duo Wrapped Sydney’s Coastline

50 years ago, art duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude made history by wrapping one million square feet of Australian coastline in fabric.

Art critics would shiver in their little turtlenecks at this description, but the easiest way to explain it was as if a giant had come along and tucked the rocky cliffs under a very large blanket for a little snooze. The large-scale installation was ballsy, even by today’s standards, and drew international attention to Little Bay, Sydney. To celebrate the five decades since the kooky Europeans and Kaldor Public Art Projects brought Wrapped Coast to our shoes, here’s five facts about the project we thought were worth sharing.

The installation covered one million square feet

Using erosion-control fabric usually made for agricultural purposes, they wrapped over 92,900 square metres of coastline. That’s an insane amount of primo waterfront real estate, and not without its difficulties. Contending with wind, tides and precarious heights, they tied the fabric to the rocks and then used Ramset guns—something I was really excited about, before a Google search revealed it’s just your garden variety nail gun—to fire 25,000 charges of fasteners, threaded studs and clips to secure the rope to the rocks. If I could go back 50 years just to bob out at sea in a dinghy and watch this, you bet your sweet ass I would.

 Some old white pollies hated it

Surprise! Out of touch politicians hating on something that brings a bit of cultural richness to Australia, instead of money-hungry corps looking to mine the shit out of all our natural resources? I know. A classic one-liner from one of the project’s haters includes: ‘I’ve seen better art in a kid wrapping up a nice brown paper parcel in one of the big shops in town than I see fooling around on the coast of Sydney.’ What’s pretty cool about it, though, was the amount of love the project got from a lot of the city’s locals and the people that worked tirelessly to bring it to life. As one open-minded, older man says in this video, ‘Although it isn’t my cup of tea, I’d imagine that for many thousands of people it would be their cup of tea, with cream added into it.’ Truer words were never said.

The project was completed self-financed

As it mentions on Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s website, the project was financed entirely through the sale of Christo’s original preparatory drawings, collages, scale models, early Packages and Wrapped Objects of the 1950s and 1960s, and lithographs. What’s even more impressive is that the pair didn’t accept sponsorships of any kind, and that they recycled the materials after the project wrapped up. Thunberg, eat your heart out.


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Wrapped Coast relied on huge amounts of manpower

Four weeks, 17,000 hours, 15 professional mountain climbers, and 110 workers (who included architecture and art students, artists and teachers) toiled away on the cliffs to bring Wrapped Coast to life. All the climbers and workers were paid, too.

It kickstarted Kaldor Public Art Projects

Kaldor Public Art Projects launched in 1969 with this groundbreaking project, and they’ve since presented over 30 public art projects across Australia. The first organisation of its type anywhere in the world, Kaldor Public Art Projects has completely altered the progression of contemporary art in Australia, and showed artists like Jeff Koons, Marina Abramovic, and Jonathan Jones.

See more from Wrapped Coast by checking out Making art public: 50 years of Kaldor Public Art Projects at the Art Gallery of NSW before 16 Feb, 2020. Admission is free.

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