Christo laundry, wacko RISD

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Screenshot from the Jewelry District Association’s website.

The Jewelry District Association, in Providence, reports that Christo is going to cross the Providence River and line India Point Park with laundry, pegged on a giant laundry line. In my book, that crosses an important boundary, as does RISD’s art installation that has since winter draped a white rail gate in front of the RISD Museum’s main facade on Benefit Street.

Okay, so which of these is the April Fool’s joke? The Christo, it seems. Not that it would be all that surprising to have the famous cloak-and-stagger artist do a contemporary art installation in Providence. The city is near the top in lots of tourist polls measuring the latest “hot” places. And with good reason. It stands to reason that someone like Christo would be brought in to help the city attract visitors with something super stupid.

Christo covered the Reichstag/Bundestag in Berlin with cloth a couple of decades ago and more recently lined Central Park with orange cloth “gates.” The latter project resulted in a Colbert humor sketch that is by far the best thing to emerge from Christo’s entire career as an “artist.” If I could trade a few weeks of my dignity for a sketch that funny, I would consider it seriously. But I cannot take seriously the idea that Providence’s top cultural institution would allow such a joke, in the name of art, to be played on it.

So the RISD gate makes more sense as an April Fool’s joke. But it is actually the threat of a Christo event in Providence that is the joke. A friend sent me a link to the website of the Jewelry District Association and I read three or four paragraphs into the story it before it occurred to me to check the date. You guessed it. April 1, 2017.

(By the way, congratulations to the Jewelry District for its successful cam- paign to avoid official rebrandment as “The Knowledge District.” It will always be the Jewelry District to anyone who loves Providence.)

RISD has not returned my call yet about its own gate, pictured below, but I suspect that it is a work of art – one that scrapes its fingernails on the elegant blackboard of the RISD Art Museum’s original Georgian frontage on Benefit Street. As such, it is a perfectly conventional work of contemporary installation art in the early 21st century.

I assume there’s a date upon which the installation will be removed. I will report back when I find out. My main comment is that this is not quite as inelegant a blotch as Brown’s idiotic giant blue bear erected last year on Simmons (Lincoln) Field, but it is worse because it is in a more prominent location. In both cases, art and the public are both the loser. Art indeed!


Matt Berry, of RISD, just returned my call and told me that the work was indeed an art installation, called “White Wall,” by Cameron Kucera (RISD BArch 2019, Architecture), Makoto Moses Kumasaka (RISD BFA 2018, Furniture), and Vuthy Lay (RISD BArch 2019, Architecture). They are part winners of this year’s Dorner Prize. “The Wall” was installed on Feb. 16 and will be deinstalled on June 4. Here is a description:

White Wall, a winning entry for the Dorner Prize 2017, is a bamboo screen and performance space that formalizes the invisible socioeconomic obstructions to museum accessibility. This piece seeks to take the architectural conditions of the Radeke Building and redefine them as a platform for discussion, demonstration, and contact. Intervention art as well as institutional critique, this project is offered by the artists as a scaffolding for others to join the conversation.


Apparently temporary installation art on Benefit Street. (Photo by David Brussat)

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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7 Responses to Christo laundry, wacko RISD

  1. blue streak says:

    The “arch” is a nice touch, but the vertical and horizontal pieces framing each side look, to me, like prison bars and thus, not very inviting.


  2. But that’s a Gothic arch! Doesn’t that meet your trad standards? Or are you one of those who mistook the setting sun of culture in the late medieval period for a rising sun?


  3. David, When art you don’t like is temporary not permanent, why not consider that a blessing?


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