In memoriam – Christo Vladimirov Javacheff – known simply as Christo – died of natural causes after his partner in life and art Jeanne-Claude has passed away in 2009. The monumental urban and environmental artists were both born on June 13th, 1935. Together they wrapped iconic landmarks such as the Berlin Reichstag and – in 2021 – also the Arc the Triomphe in Paris. Amongst the latest works is the London Serpentine Galleries floating installation and the Floating Piers installation on a Northern Italian lake.
Due to the large scale of the installations, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s controversial work has been “based on its immediate aesthetic impact rather that deeper meanings,” explained the artists. “The purpose of our art is simply to create new ways of seeing familiar landscapes.”
“I am an educated Bulgarian Marxist who has learned to use capitalism for his art.” Said once Christo. “We pay with our money! No grants, no money from the industry,” he said at the opening of The London Mastaba in 2018. “All these projects get initiated by us. Nobody asked us to do it. Nobody asked us to wrap the Reichstag. Nobody asked us to install floating piers. We decided that we do exactly what we like to do.”
Wrapping the Parisian arch, 2021
Mostly known for their ‘monumental wrapping’ projects, the duo scaffolded some of the major venues with a cultural and historical relevance. Their next project will appear in Paris, in September 2021 – the long-awaited wrapping of one of the world’s most famous war memorials, the Arc de Triomphe – is supposed to go ahead. “Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always made clear that their artworks in progress be continued after their deaths.” Say from Paris.
Wrapping the Reinchstag, Berlin, 1995
After a struggle spanning the seventies, eighties and nineties, the wrapping of the Reichstag was completed in June 1995. For two weeks, the building was shrouded with silvery fabric, shaped by the blue ropes, highlighting the features and proportions of the imposing structure.
Other important ‘wrappings’ by Christo and Jeanne-Claude include Point-Neuf in Paris, Bern Kunsthalle, Milanese statues, Italian medieval towers, Roman walls and Swiss trees.
The Floating Pier, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2016
The ‘Floating Pier’ project consisted in a 3km long and 16m-wide walkway made of 220,000 high-density polyethylene floating cubes, all covered in 100,000 square meters of saffron-coloured nylon fabric. The pier was designed to change colour according to the time of the day and the weather. “It’s actually very painterly, like an abstract painting, but it will change all the time,” explained Christo.
The London Mastaba, London, 2016
Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always bee fascinated by Mesopotamiam and Egyptians tombs. Painted in shades of red, blue and mauve. In 2018 they created a structure of 7,506 specially made barrels on a floating platform in the Serpentine Lake in London.
Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay – Florida, 1983
Over 600 thousand square metres of luminous pink fabric selected surrounded a series of islands in Biscayne Bay, contrasting with the shallow waters and Miami skies. Having obtained permission from government agencies, Christo and Jeanne-Claude created floating rafts of fabric attached to octagonal, pink-painted booms that were towed into place, unfurled and anchored in place.
The Gates, New York City, 2005
In 2005, the duo created a 23 mile long path in Central Park featuring 7,503 gates with deep saffron-coloured fabrics. The Gates project alludes to the tradition of Japanese Torii, traditional vermilion gates in from of Shinto shrines and all disposed in order to create both physical and spiritual paths.
Valley Curtain, Rifle – Colorado, 1972
Valley Curtain was installed between two Colorado mountain slopes in 1972. The orange curtain was made from 200,200 square feet (18,600 square meters) of woven nylon fabric. 28 hours after completion, a gale made it necessary to start the removal.
The Umbrellas, Los Angeles and Tokyo, 1991
In 1991, they planted a series of bright yellow and blue umbrellas across landscapes outside of Los Angeles and Tokyo. The installation reflected the similarities and differences in the ways of life and the use of the land in two inland valleys far away from each others.
Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties – California, 1976
Running Fence was 18 feet high and 24.5 miles long. The art project consisted of 42 months of collaborative efforts, 18 public hearings, three sessions at the Superior Courts of California, the drafting of a 450-page Environmental Impact Report and the temporary use of the hills, the sky and the ocean at California’s Bodega Bay.
Wall of Oil Barrels, Paris, 1962
On June 27, 1962, Christo and Jeanne-Claude closed Rue Visconti, a narrow street in Paris with a wall of 89 oil barrels. The art barricade was a protest against the Berlin Wall which had been built in August of 1961 and lasted only 8 ours before being dismantled.
All photos by ©Christo and Jeanne-Calude.