Christo and Jeanne-Claude Happy Belated Birthday

13 June marked the birthday of both Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the environmental art superstar duo.  Bulgarian Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Moroccan-born Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon met in Paris in 1958 and were eventually married.  Sadly, Jeanne-Claude passed away 18 November 2009 from complications of a brain aneurism, but Christo still continues the work of the pair.  Being born on the same day of the same year it seems the two were destined to work and love together.

Christo has notably stated that, “I am an artist, and I have to have courage… Do you know that I don’t have any artworks that exist?  They all go away when they’re finished.  Only the preparatory drawings and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character.  I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain.”  This certainly sums up the work of the partnership – it is beautiful, monumental, but ultimately evanescent.  The work exists for a short time only, dramatically altering the landscape but then disappearing without a trace.

Notable projects by Christo and Jeanne-Claude include the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin, The Gates in Central Park in New York City, and Running Fence in California.  Most projects of the duo incorporate vast amounts of fabric that, in a sense, make a tapestry of the landscape.  The works are completed on a tremendous scale encouraging viewers to look at the environment in a new way by playing with ideas of revealing and concealing.

Two current projects carried on by Christo have faced several years of planning and research, complicated by the necessary navigation of a multitude of bureaucratic processes.  Over the River is a proposed project where 6.7 miles of fabric will be suspended over the Arkansas River in Colorado.  The reflective and translucent material will alter the appearance of the landscape from above and below, but still allow for recreational use of the river.  This project will follow the meandering curves of the river almost as a horizontal version of the Running Fence.  Also the pair had initiated work on The Mastaba, which is to be a rectangular pyramid constructed of oil barrels in the United Arab Emirates.

The remarkable work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude has been already introduced into the art historical canon and it is apparent that though the works are ephemeral, the impact of the pair is anything but. Words: Emily Sack © ArtLyst 2012