Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the Art of Wrapping the World Together

Bulgarian-born artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude stand in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany - Photo by Markus Waechter/AP
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Markus Waechter/AP/Shutterstock (7272451a) Bulgarian-born artist Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude stand in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany on as preparations for the art project "Wrapped Reichstag" go on Germany Berlin Christo And Jeanne-Claude, Berlin, Germany

Their last act was “Barrels and the Mastaba” planned by Christo and Jeanne-Claude since 1977 to be performed in the United Arab Emirates. But those plans changed and it was finally performed in London in 2018, nine years after Jeanne-Claude’s death. This project consisted of a 20-meter high mastaba, built with 7,506 barrels of oil stacked together. The 55-gallon barrels were colored to resemble a mosaic.

The London Mastaba was a temporary floating installation that was on display from June 19 to September 9, 2018. It sat on a high-density polyethylene floating platform, supported by 32 anchors, and weighed 600 tons. The work, located in Serpentine Lake in London’s Hyde Park, was carried out with 7,506 barrels stacked, painted red, blue, purple and white, and anchored to a floating platform.

The London Mastaba – Photo by acuteart.com

Christo Vladimirov Javacheff was born in Gabrovo, Bulgaria on June 13, 1935, and died in New York on May 31, 2020. He had a long relationship with Jeanne-Claude who was born in Casablanca, Morocco on June 13, 1935, until his death on November 18, 2009. Born on the same day in Bulgaria and Morocco, respectively, the couple met and married in Paris in the late 1950s. Both were a couple of artists who made environmental art installations. These are characterized by the use of fabric to c giant buildings or cover large public areas.

The first of their large installations was the “5,600 Cubicmeter Package” from 1968. During that year Christo and Jeanne-Claude had the opportunity to participate in Documenta 4 in Kassel, Germany where they decided to build a 5,600 cubic meter tube that would be suspended by cranes and would be visible at a distance of 25 kilometers. Using the two largest cranes in Europe, the project finally became a reality. The pipe package costing US$ 70,000 remained there for two months.

The 1972 “Valley Curtain” project – Photo by Wolfgang Volz © Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

In 1972 the “Valley Curtain” project led them to place a 400 m long cloth stretched across the Gap Rifle, a valley in the Rocky Mountains, near Rifle, Colorado. The project required 14,000 m² of cloth to be hung on a steel cable, which was attached to metal bars fixed in concrete on each slope. For this project, they had to raise the high amount of US$400,000.

An aerial view of Christo and Jean-Claude’s “Surrounded Islands”. – Photo by Wolfgang Volz © Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

“Surrounded Islands” consisted of surrounding eleven islands in Miami’s Bahía Vizcaina with 603,850 m² of pink polypropylene. The work was completed on May 4, 1983, with the collaboration of 430 assistants and could be contemplated for two weeks. The islands were watched day and night by monitors in inflatable boats.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85 – – Photo by Wolfgang Volz © Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

After nine years of negotiations with the mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, in August 1984 the couple obtained permission to cover the “Pont Neuf”. To wrap the structure, 40,000 square meters of sand-colored polyamide fabric was needed. On September 22, 1985, the project was completed. In the following two weeks, more than three million people visited the site.

Wrapped Reichstag by Christo and Jean-Claude. Image © flickr user txmx-2, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 1995 Christo and his wife concentrated on wrapping the Reichstag building in Germany. On February 25, 1995, after long discussions, the Bundestag authorized the project. Were needed more than 10 hectares of fire-resistant polypropylene fabric, covered by an aluminum layer, and 15.6 km of rope. The building began to be wrapped on June 17, 1995, and was ready a week later. The show was watched by 5 million visitors before being removed on July 7 of that same year.

On January 3, 2005, the installation of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s most extensive project began in New York’s Central Park. “The Gates” was inaugurated on February 12, 2005, with 7,053 “Gates” that were made of saffron yellow material and installed on the park’s trails. They were 5 meters high and, combined, were 37 kilometers wide.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Artists Behind The Gates in Central Park – Photo by Wolfgang Volz © Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

The work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude was typically large, visually impressive and controversial, and often took years and sometimes decades of careful preparation, including technical solutions, political negotiation, obtaining environmental permits and approval, hearings, and public persuasion.

The couple turned down gifts, scholarships, donations, or public money, financing the work instead of selling their own artwork. Christo and Jeanne-Claude said their projects contained no deeper meaning than their immediate aesthetic impact. That their purpose was simply joy, beauty, and new ways of seeing the familiar.

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