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Christo & Jeanne Claude

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Christo & Jeanne Claude Biography

born 1935

Christo (born Hristo Yavashev) and Jeanne Claude are an artistic couple practicing environmental, installation art. Their works include the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin, and the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris, the 24-mile-long Running Fence in Marin and Sonoma, counties in California, and The Gates, in New York City's Central Park.

Although their artwork is visually striking and often controversial due to its size and scale, the artists have repeatedly denied that their projects contain any deeper meaning. The purpose of their art, they contend, is to simply make the world a "more beautiful place" or offer a new way of looking at an old landscape.

David Bourdon has called Christo's wrappings a "revelation through concealing." The couple maintain a partnership in all undertakings. Formally their art is always credited as being the work of "Christo and Jeanne-Claude." In practice, however, Jeanne-Claude has been understood to serve as the PR agent, while Christo has appeared to make the creative decisions. She has described their public personae as having a "good cop / bad cop" dynamic.

Select Timeline

  • 1953 - Christo was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts, Bulgaria
  • 1956 - Christo left Bulgaria to go to Prague, Czechoslovakia
  • 1964 - He and Jeanne-Claude came to the United States

Select Exhibitions

  • 2002 - Christo and Jeane Claude In the Vogel Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
  • 2004 - Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 40 Years of Public Art, KCC of the City University of New York
  • 2005 - Christo and Jeanne-Claude Works from the Weston Collection, Art Gallery Of Ontario, Canada

Select Artwork

  • Documenta 4
    • In 1968, Christo and Jeanne-Claude had the chance to participate at the Documenta 4 in Kassel. For this, the couple wanted to build a package with a volume of 5,600 meters cubed, which would be lifted by cranes and visible from a distance of 25km. However, the first attempts failed from June 24, 1968 as the polyethylene skin frequently burst as it was being raised. After repeated repairs and using the two largest cranes in Europe, the project finally became a reality. The package stood for two months and cost Christo and Jeanne-Claude $70,000 (USD), which they had great difficulty raising.
  • Surrounded Coast
    • At the end of 1969 Jeanne Claude and Christo surrounded the coast of Little Bay in Sydney, Australia with the aid of 130 helpers who devoted 17,000 work hours. The project required 9,300 square-meters of synthetic fabric and 56 km rope. After initial resistance from the authorities and the public, reactions were largely positive.
  • Valley Curtain
    • At the end of 1970 Christo and Jeanne-Claude began the preparations for the Valley Curtain project. A 400-meter long cloth was to be stretched across a valley in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. The project was complicated due to protests by environmentalists, and with raising the planned budget of $230,000. The project required 14,000 square meters of cloth to be hung on steel cable, fastened with iron bars fixed in concrete on each slope, and 200 tons of concrete had to be carried by hand in buckets up each slope.

      The budget increased to $400,000 causing Christo and Jeanne-Claude additional problems with the financing. Finally enough works of art were sold to raise the money and on October 10, 1971 the orange-coloured curtain was ready for hanging, but was torn to shreds by wind and rock. While a second curtain was being manufactured, Christo received a request from a Berlin architect to veil the Reichstag. On August 10, 1972 the second attempt to hang the cloth succeeded, but only 28 hours later it had to be taken down because of an approaching storm.
  • Running Fence
    • In 1973, after 17 stateless years, Christo became a United States citizen. That same year, he began preparations for "Running Fence": a veiled fence, made from steel posts and steel cables, running through the landscape and leading into the sea. The fence was to be 5.5 meters high and 40 kilometers long. For the project, agricultural workers needed to be convinced and the permission of the authorities had to be obtained, so Christo and Jeanne-Claude hired nine lawyers. At the end of 1974 Christo marked the path of the fence with wooden stakes and on April 29, 1976 the work finally began after a long struggle against bureaucracy. Approximately 200,000 Sq Meters of nylon, 2050 steel posts and 145 km of steel cable were needed. On September 10, 1976 the work was completed. However, Christo and Jeanne Claude had to pay a $60,000 fine, because they lacked permission for the coastal region.
  • Wrapped Walk Ways
    • Christo and Jeanne Claude were mostly paying back loans and trying to save money. In addition, however, they continued to plan their future projects, like veiling the Reichstag, the Pont Neuf in Paris, as well as "Wrapped Walk Ways", a veiling of footpaths in a park. In November Christo met his parents, seeing his mother for the first time in 20 years.
  • Surrounded Islands
    • The Christo's planned a project based on Jeanne-Claude's idea to surround eleven islands in Miami's Biscayne Bay with 603,850 square meters of pink polypropylene. It was completed on May 7, 1983 with the aid of 500 helpers and could be admired for two weeks.
  • Pont Neuf
    • On March 14, 1984, Jeanne-Claude became a U.S. citizen; however, she retained dual nationality and kept her French passport. In August the couple received permission to veil the Pont Neuf after nine years of negotiations with the mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac and preparations for the project began. For the veiling of the oldest bridge in Paris, 40,000 meteres sq. of sand-coloured polyamide fabric was needed. The veiling began on August 25, 1985 and was finished on September 22. In the next two weeks over three million people visited the project
  • Umbrellas
    • In December 1990, after much preparation, the first bases for the screens were laid. At the bases 80 cm long anchors were fastened to the ground to withstand tensions of 1,500 kgf (15 kN). In September 1991 the screens were brought to their places by 1,880 workers. In order to preserve the countryside, the bases were transported to the site by helicopter. The final cost of the project totaled $26 million.

      The colors were intended to complement the landscape in which they were placed; the yellow umbrellas were chosen to accent the amber-colored grassy hills of Southern California, and the blue umbrellas were chosen to accent the lush greenery around the river in Japan, along which they were placed.
  • The Reichstag
    • After the project "Umbrellas" Christo and Jeanne-Claude concerned themselves with veiling the Reichstag in Berlin. With the support of the parliamentary speaker, Rita Sussmuth, the Christos worked to convince the Members of Parliament, going from office to office, writing explanatory letters to each of the 662 delegates and innumerable telephone calls and negotiations. On February 25, 1995 after lengthy discussions the Bundestag allowed the project to go ahead.
  • Verhullte Baume (Wrapped Trees)
    • After 32 years of preparation, Christo and Jeanne-Claude veiled 178 trees in Berower Park north-east of Basel between November 13 and December 14, 1998. To wrap the trees, the couple used 55,000 square meters of silver-grey shiny polyester material and 23 kilometers of rope. A pattern had to be made for each individual tree and so the natural shape of the branches pushed the material outwards, creating individual shapes in the sky. The construction varied in height from 2 to 25 meters and in width from 1 to nearly 15 meters. As with their other projects, this was financed by the sale of original works. All materials used in this project were recycled when it was taken down.
  • Wrapped Snoopy House
    • In 1975, Charles M. Schulz drew an episode of his comic strip Peanuts in which Snoopy's doghouse is wrapped in fabric by Christo. In response, Christo constructed a wrapped doghouse and presented it to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in 2003
  • The Gates
    • On January 3, 2005, work began on the installation of the couple's most protracted project, The Gates, in Central Park in New York City. They have also referred to it as "The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005" in reference to the time that passed from their initial proposal until they were able to go ahead with it: only with the permission of the new mayor of New York, Michael R. Bloomberg, were they able to proceed. "The Gates" was open to the public from February 12 until February 27, 2005. A total of 7,503 gates made of saffron-yellow material were placed on paths in Central Park. They were five metres high and had a combined length of 37 km.

Quotes

Publications

  • Christo and Jeanne-Claude in the Vogel Collection, by Molly Donovan
  • Christo and Jeanne-Claude: International Projects (Hardcover), by Dieter Ronte Philip Wilson Publishers (January 27, 2005)
  • Christo and Jeanne-Claude (Hardcover), by Rudy Chiappini Skira (May 23, 2006)
  • Christo and Jeanne-Claude: On the Way to The Gates, Central Park, New York City, by Jonathan Fineberg, Yale University Press; New Ed edition (June 28, 2005)
  • The Gates: Project for Central Park, New York City, by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Hugh Lauter Levin Associates (October 2003)
  • Christo and Jeanne-Claude: An Authorized Biography, by Burt Chernow, St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (December 23, 2004)

Quick Facts

  • Their works are deliberately temporary, because this enhances their value and intensity - just as the idea of death makes us more aware of life's precious brevity.
  • Christo escaped from Communism in 1957, so the notion of freedom is extremely important to him, and thus in the art
  • Most of their works take many years of planning, hearings, etc. to get governmental and residential approval to proceed - as long as 32 years.
  • They like to create 'gentle disturbances' in spaces owned by human beings - to make people become more aware of themselves and their surroundings.
  • The wrapping of buildings and the surrounding of islands: The wrapped fabric hides the details of the forms, revealing only the essential structure, like drapery in classical sculpture. - The wrapping of the Reichstag building in Berlin had, for Christo, importance because of the idea of East-West relations (the Cold War), where the U.S. and the Soviets had their biggest confrontation

Keywords

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 Christo & Jeanne Claude   Ontario Art Gallery - Christo & Jeanne Claude Ontario Art Gallery - Christo & Jeanne Claude  $62.00   Buy Now  
 Christo & Jeanne Claude   The Gates, 2004 Collage- Christo & Jeanne Claude The Gates, 2004 Collage- Christo & Jeanne Claude  $14.00   Buy Now  
 Christo & Jeanne Claude   The Gates, Collage 2003- Christo & Jeanne Claude The Gates, Collage 2003- Christo & Jeanne Claude  $14.00   Buy Now  
 Christo & Jeanne Claude   The Gates, Collage 2003- Christo & Jeanne Claude The Gates, Collage 2003- Christo & Jeanne Claude  $14.00   Buy Now  
 Christo & Jeanne Claude   The Gates, Drawing 2003- Christo & Jeanne Claude The Gates, Drawing 2003- Christo & Jeanne Claude  $14.00   Buy Now  
 Christo & Jeanne Claude   The Gates, Drawing 2004- Christo & Jeanne Claude The Gates, Drawing 2004- Christo & Jeanne Claude  $14.00   Buy Now  
 Christo & Jeanne Claude   The Umbrellas (California Site) - Christo & Jeanne Claude The Umbrellas (California Site) - Christo & Jeanne Claude  $14.00   Buy Now  
 Christo & Jeanne Claude   Valley Curtain- Christo & Jeanne Claude Valley Curtain- Christo & Jeanne Claude  $14.00   Buy Now  
 Christo & Jeanne Claude   Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin- Christo & Jeanne Claude Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin- Christo & Jeanne Claude  $14.00   Buy Now  
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