Bulgarian-born artist, Christo, died on June 1st, 2020 at his home in New York, aged 84. Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude Denat, were famous for their unique ‘wrapping’ installations, which saw them quite literally wrap landmarks in a variety of materials.
From humble beginnings
The pair found infamy in their first illegal art installation in 1962. They blocked off Rue Visconti in central Paris and created the Rideau de fer (Iron Curtain) from discarded oil barrels. Jeanne-Claude managed to convince Police to let the work stand for a while, despite them having no permits. Rideau de fer stood long enough to stir up controversy and give the artists a platform. Christo and Jeanne-Claude devised the work as a commentary on the horrors of the Berlin Wall. From there, their reputation for the creation of public art grew exponentially.
In 1968, they constructed Documenta 4 in Kassel, Germany. This included the work Corridor Storefronts and an enormous air package, which stood for just 10 hours. The 280ft tall air package is the largest inflatable ever built without the aid of a structural skeleton. Christo and JC continued to work on installations on such an incredible scale most of them required years of planning.
Celebrated works – Pont Neuf and Reichstag
One of the most famous works by the pair is the wrapping of the iconic Pont Neuf bridge in Paris in 1985. The installation took one month to complete and used 430,000 square feet of beige polyamide fabric. Several million locals and visitors viewed the covered bridge during its three-week existence.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude then turned their sights to Germany and requested permission to wrap the Reichstag in Berlin. After much parliamentary debate within the building, the project was given the go-ahead in 1995.
Using more than 1 million square feet of flame retardant polypropylene, and taking eight days to complete, the entire Reichstag building was wrapped from foundation to peak. The spectacle attracted more than five million visitors, despite standing for less than two weeks.
Other notable works include The Floating Piers in Lake Iseo, Italy; The Umbrellas built simultaneously in California and Japan, and the 25-mile long Running Fence in Sonoma, California.
The most unique feature of the majority of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art is its sheer scale. It is also designed to be temporary. This means most no longer exists and simply occupied a teeny wee window in time.
In saying that, many small works by Christo and Jeanne-Claude can be seen at galleries around the world. These include the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in Duisberg, Germany, the Musee National d’Art Moderne at Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, and Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands.
Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009. Despite missing his creative partner, Christo continued to work until his death in June 2020. He has two major installations planned for the future, and these will go ahead, despite Christo’s death.
Plans for the ‘Mastaba’ in UAE are already underway. On completion, Mastaba will be the world’s largest sculpture. The installation’s design incorporates 410,000 multi-coloured oil barrels. It’s not known when this will be on display.
The highly-anticipated wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris will now be the first project to be displayed since Christo’s death. Due to Covid19, the work has been postponed for 12 months. The wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe will go ahead in September 2021.