56 Barrels, Christo


In 1968, art collectors Martin and Mia Visser asked Christo (1935-2020) to create a barrel object for their garden in Bergeijk. Christo made a large stack of uncoloured, used oil barrels, one of his last works in which the barrels are stacked in columns.

The work was donated to the Kröller-Müller Museum in 1977. Since then it has stood in the museum’s sculpture garden, in a location chosen by the artist himself. It is Christo’s only permanent outdoor ‘barrel work’ that is open to the public.

The donation was made on the condition that the work would receive conservation treatment. In close collaboration with Christo, the original barrels were replaced by new ones, which were given a protective, coloured coating. The colours and the types of barrels were selected by Christo.

Over the years, the surface of the barrels has suffered greatly from the elements. Despite regular maintenance and cleaning, the condition of the coating continued to deteriorate and the steel barrels were damaged by corrosion. Therefore, in 1989 a number of the barrels were replaced again and new layers of paint were applied.

Current condition

It is now more than thirty years later and the condition of the sculpture necessitates a more fundamental conservation. In terms of both materials and aesthetics, the work is in poor condition. Due of its closed construction, it has thus far been impossible to fully determine the condition of the work. Preliminary investigations have revealed that both the barrels and the pedestal are in poor condition. There are structural issues, damage to the paint and coating, and severe corrosion of the barrels is visible. The pedestal has subsided due to structural and drainage problems, making it no longer a stable base for the work.

File research

To ascertain the production process, the history and the choice of colours and materials of the work, file research was conducted in 2013-2014.

The conservation after the work was donated in 1977 involved using new barrels as well as repainting barrels. So Christo apparently has no objection to that. The colour composition of the barrels and also their form and dimensions are, however, important.

The work after conservation in 1977 is the point of departure for the new treatment. The barrels and paint layers should not look used and rusty because they were new in that year.


The restoration

The sculpture was dismantled at the end of 2023. The barrels have been freshly painted and replaced where necessary. The base has been completely replaced. Such a restoration involves a great deal of research. Drawings and certificates by Christo and earlier versions of 56 Barrels, which were approved by the artist but differ from each other, have served as a guiding principle.

Presentation in the museum

A presentation on this work will be on display in the museum from 1 June to 20 October 2024. The history of the sculpture is retraced using sketches by Christo and photographs of earlier versions and restorations. The presentation also includes drawings, collages and certificates.