In 1966 Christo came to Minneapolis to participate in the exhibition Eight Sculptors: The Ambiguous Image at the Walker Art Center. Taking advantage of Christo’s visit, area colleges arranged for Christo to teach and participate in student art activities while he was here. For a project at Minneapolis College of Art (MCAD) Christo worked with students to create 14,130 Cubic Feet Empaquetage (1966)—also known as Balloon Ascension. The students filled a weather balloon with 2,804 party balloons. The package was lifted 20 feet into the air by helicopter where it hovered for 30 minutes before descending to the ground. The original plan was that the helicopter would lift the balloon from MCAD to the Walker, but because of the complexity of lifting the balloon no one knew what would actually happen until the helicopter attempted the lift. Although it never completed the intended route it was still an impressive sight.
Covering the project, a partnership between MCAD and the Walker’s Contemporary Arts Group, the Minneapolis Tribune ran a story headlined “A Monument to Nothingness.” “The balloon is merely a container holding nothing just like the package will eventually hold many containers holding nothing and if one of the containers breaks the nothing still remains,” wrote Mike Steele. “It boggles the mind.”
For more moments from the Walker’s 75 years as a public art center, visit our Walker@75 page.