One of my favourite books is by Fabrice Peltier, edited by Pyramyd and entitled “Art, échanges créatifs”. Why do I refer to this book? Because it deals precisely with the subject I wish to write about, i.e. can a pack be art? In this connection, I picked out the great French verb “emballer” which means to pack or to wrap, as well as to be carried away by enthusiasm.
Here I should like to make a small digression: In Montreux, back in 1970, when I went to register the birth of my daughter Jessica, I was asked about my profession. I answered that I was a “spécialiste emballages” at Nestlé, whereupon the lady behind the counter wrote “emballeur” on the birth certificate… and indeed, I am still passionate about my job!
This question of wrapping/packing and art leads me to a visit I made recently to Mrs Ulla Ahrenberg, the fascinating widow of the Swedish art collector Theodor (“Teto”) Ahrenberg (✝1989) who was a fervent supporter of young emerging, as well as established artists. Some of them came and worked and/or lived with the Ahrenbergs in their house in Chexbres, a village next to where I live. A fascinating list of artists such as Picasso, Matisse, Le Corbusier, Arman, Chagall, Niki de Saint Phalle, Tinguely, Sam Francis, Kantor, Christo, etc.
When I met with Ulla, it is these last two artists which drew my attention as they are real “emballeurs”! Christo of course, more well known for his large environmental works together with his wife Jeanne-Claude and Tadeusz Kantor, a Polish artist, mostly known for his theatre plays. Both have written manifestos on “wrapping”, Kantor wrote his while visiting the Ahrenbergs in Chexbres.
It would be too long to quote the manifestos, but one could say that the act of wrapping something up is an artistic process. Art critic David Bourdon has described Christo’s wrappings as a “revelation through concealment”. To his critics Christo replies, “I am an artist and I have to have courage… Do you know that I don’t have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they’re finished. Only the prepartory drawings and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain”.
I know this is a bit far-fetched, but is it not what pack designers do… wrap something up that goes down the bin after use? Nothing remains.
Coming back to my visit to Mrs Ulla Ahrenberg and looking at the art which she showed me, two things caught my attention. The first was a page in a Kantor brochure for an exhibition in Krakow where texts are printed perpendicular to each other, thus doubling the space available for information. I have ‘preached’ this since many years for brand managers who think that there is not enough space on a back panel for all information.
The other fascinating discovery was a book wrapper by Christo with the followig text: “Please do not unwrap the inner parcel, which is an authentic work of art conceived and executed by the artist Christo in the form of a ‘package’. Christo’s art form consists of wrapping objects, and the shape, binding and various attachments of these packages should not be altered”.
And finally there is this chamber pot containing ‘something wrapped’… not even Ulla Ahrenberg knows what is in this piece of art by Christo!
As the reader may have understood, I am in favour of a more artistic touch in package design. And why couldn’t one mention the designers’ names on a package today? They would certainly merit to be known!