‘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 distils specifics to arrive at a generalisation, creating a mood of detachment, loneliness and vacancy’
‘In presenting cases and shop fronts as artistic readymades, Christo shifted attention from the commodity fetish to its mechanics of display. His store works highlight the framing function of commercial props … The auratic space of a store front is here borrowed and manipulated in ways that expose (rather than mystify) the instability of value’
Acquired directly from the artist and held in the same private collection ever since, Green Show Window belongs to the seminal group of works with which Christo launched his celebrated project-based practice. Closely related to the series of Store Fronts produced between 1964 and 1967, the two-metre-high work is a scale emulation of the shop façades that lined the streets of New York. Executed in 1965 – the same year as Christo’s first solo museum exhibition at the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven – it marks his assimilation into the global art world, having emigrated to America from Paris in September 1964. The present work, unlike many of the Show Windows, features wooden panelling along the lower edge, aligning it more closely with the Store Fronts – in particular the major early Green Store Front, now held in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. Together, these series formed a critical link between the artist’s early wrapped objects and Show Cases, and his large-scale environmental works and wrapped public buildings. Created using scavenged construction materials often found in flea markets or demolition sites, the works engage with the armature of consumer culture – its portals and display cases – whilst simultaneously disabling its function. No goods are glimpsed behind the glass; no open door invites the customer in. Unlike his Pop Art contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, who similarly engaged with the rise of consumerism, Christo was fascinated less by the proliferation of branding and advertising than by the role of architecture in socio-cultural activity. ‘They were so generalised as to be universal, a kind of “everystore”’, writes David Bourdon. ‘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 distils specifics to arrive at a generalisation, creating a mood of detachment, loneliness and vacancy’ (D. Bourdon, Christo, New York 1970, p. 28). Simultaneously haunting and nostalgic, Green Show Window momentarily transports the viewer back to 1960s New York, yet ultimately denies all access.
The Show Windows and Store Fronts charted Christo’s rise to prominence during his early career. During a preliminary visit to New York in May 1964, he exhibited Green Store Front at Leo Castelli’s gallery. Upon his permanent return to the city, he and his wife moved into a loft apartment on Howard Street, recommended to them by their new neighbour Claes Oldenburg, where he continued the production of the works in earnest. Between 1965 and 1966, his growing critical acclaim led to his debut museum exhibition at the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Holland, where works from the series were shown. In 1968, Christo took the theme to new, monumental proportions, creating Corridor Store Front for Documenta IV. Conceived through detailed sketches and planning phases before materialising in the flesh, the creative process of the Show Windows and Store Fronts provided the methodological blue-print for the conception of his larger public projects. ‘All these projects have two distinct periods: one that we call the “software” period, and the other that we call the “hardware” period’, Christo would later explain. ‘The software period is exactly the moment when the project exists in the drawings and in the minds of hundreds and thousands people who try to stop us and in the minds of the hundreds and thousands people who try to help us … It is like an expedition in this very complicated process of making. But the software period is working only because we are directed towards the realization of objects. Very precise objects – a curtain in the valley, a running fence, a bridge that was wrapped, umbrellas or surrounded islands’ (Christo, quoted at http://www.jca-online.com/christo. html [accessed 23 August 2017]). Situated at the dawn of this trajectory, Green Show Window marks the birth of a practice that – for over five decades – has continued to shed new light on the ways in which we engage with our environment.