American Craft

Wrapture

WHEN WE WANT TO WRAP A present in a beautiful way, we can seek out special boxes, fine wrapping papers, and choice ribbons from craftspeople – or we can make them ourselves.

But why do we wrap gifts at all? What’s the reason for the box and paper and ribbon? An obvious answer is that it’s the custom. An unwrapped gift feels less valuable. The act of giving a “naked” gift seems a little perfunctory. To go deeper, a carefully wrapped gift says the giver has taken time, paid attention, and is honoring his or her relationship with the receiver. A wrapped gift is a pleasure in its own right, too, a “gift before the gift.” To look at it is to anticipate a revelation.

In short, adding wrapping adds mystique. Maybe that’s why the practice of wrapping has transcended gift-giving and appealed to artists.

In 1995, Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped the Reichstag, the massive old parliament building that Berliners walk by every day, transforming it into a huge, strange “gift” that radiated mystery. The pair had worked their way up to the iconic project by wrapping and tying much smaller things, including bottles and cans (1958),

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