LOS ANGELES -- Christo unfurled his latest environmental artwork yesterday as a lush green countryside in Japan blossomed with 1,340 blue umbrellas, and the California portion of the project was poised to open just after dawn today.
The Japan umbrellas -- each is almost 20 feet tall and weighs 488 pounds -- started opening at 5 a.m., Japan time, Wednesday. Four hours later, almost all were open.
"So far, the Japan umbrellas are going up without mishap," said Augie Huber, general contractor for the project, which has been six years in the making and will cost more than $26 million.
The artist, known for his massive, landscape-altering works, was on hand for the opening in Japan and is expected to arrive in California in time to see at least part of the opening here.
The unveiling of the project had been delayed one day because of heavy rains at the Japan site in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 75 miles north of Tokyo.
Christo would not allow the 1,760 umbrellas in the Tejon Pass in California to open even though weather was near-perfect there. He said the project must open on the same day because the theme of the artwork is the differences between the two countries in landscape and sociology. The time difference between the two countries enables the umbrellas to be opened on the same calendar day, although the two events will take place 16 hours apart.
The delay meant several California events had to be postponed. But a breakfast for 2,500 residents, planned for a field in the middle of dozens of umbrellas, was too big to change. So instead of munching amid the art, the 1,300 people who showed up ended up in a field of what appeared to be blunt-nosed, shrouded missiles waiting for launch.