‘They were so generalised as to be universal, a kind of ‘everystore’. There are no goods or activities to be glimpsed through the undraped margins of the windows. And there are no signs, emblems or addresses to particularise their location or function...Like Hopper, Christo distills specifics to arrive at a generalisation, creating a mood of detachment, loneliness and vacancy’ (D. Bourdon, Christo, New York 1970, p. 28).
‘Christo’s Show Window (1964) belongs to the iconic Store Fronts series of works that set off the artist’s career in the early 1960s. The present work is a captivating creation oscillating between the artist’s sculptural and painterly practice: the life-size glass window is partially covered on the inside with a white fabric cloth, which does not allow the viewer to see what lies beyond the curtain. Made out of materials found at a flea market and in the abandoned buildings of Paris, the work exudes an elegant archaic appearance, which the artist purposefully enhanced by choosing a wooden frame that resembles the façade of an old shop. The overall atmosphere recalls the nostalgic and desolate feeling of Edward Hopper’s paintings, particularly the windows of no longer frequented cafés and restaurants illuminated by the electric light of lampposts along deserted streets. In Show Window, Christo employed devices that have been utilised throughout his career, which is characterised by a fascination for masking and revelation. The draped window stirs up curiosity in visitors, who peer closely at the inaccessible space beyond the curtain. This element of mystery links the work of Christo to the reclusive wooden boxes of Joseph Cornell, in which the glass windows show the spectators their own reflection.
Christo further explored the idea of obstruction in architecture in later works executed on monumental scales, such as the Three Store Fronts of 1965-66, which presented three store fronts placed diagonally in a room at the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum in The Netherlands. In 1968 Christo built a gigantic store front, entitled Corridor-Store Front, which he created exclusively for the fourth edition of Documenta, the international art exhibition held in Kassel, Germany. This work fully displayed the growing complexity and the progressive evolution of the earlier small-scale store fronts into immersive and environmental projects, which actively engaged the spectators. Christo’s large projects begin and end as visual ideas, which originate from the artist’s vast body of drawings, collages and scale models. The curtain of fabric draped inside Show Window paved the way to Christo’s later projects such as the Valley Curtain, the Running Fence and The Gates, whereas the brown cardboard that supports the white cloth seems to anticipate the Covered Windows exhibited at the Museum Haus Lange. Show Window is a significant early work of the artist: its outer framed structure is not hidden but functions as an independent sculpture that conceals the inner space, thus providing an ingenious approach to the work, requiring perceptive participation, rather than a physical understanding.