Our Artists

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are major artists in contemporary art circles and are well known for their outdoor and street creations. They wrap monuments with materials or suspend pieces of fabric across areas of countryside. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s creations are also characterised by their ephemeral nature. They create a lot of publicity and a great deal of questioning about the meaning of their art...

Biography

A meeting

Christo and Jeanne-Claude is the artist’s name given to the joint works of Christo Vladimiroff Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude were both born on 13 June 1935, the former in Bulgaria and the latter in Morocco, of French nationality. They both later became naturalised Americans

Jeanne-Claude died in New York on 18 November 2009.

Christo’s childhood in Bulgaria during the Second World War was not an easy one. His father was imprisoned by the Communist regime as he was accused of sabotage.

He developed an interest in Art when still very young and practised drawing. In 1953, he began his artistic training at the School of Fine Art in Sofia, where he studied painting, sculpture and architecture until 1956.

Christo did not obtain his diploma because he was not a partisan of communism. The authorities gave him the job of landscaping the areas surrounding the Orient-Express to give Western passengers a good image of Bulgaria. Christo did not follow the instructions, which favoured propaganda, and painted canvases that went against the regime’s ideology (peasants resting, etc.). He was forced to flee to Vienna.

In 1958, he left for Paris and frequented the New Realists group from 1963. He created abstract paintings and packaging for objects (bottles, drums, boxes, tables...) or living models out of fabric or plastic. This was when the couple met and immediately began their artistic partnership.

Jeanne-Claude helped Christo the artist to organise and prepare the works. This was teamwork that needed considerable resources. Organisation and logistics formed an integral part of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art. The procedures they had to go through for each project often involved years of investigation, requests for authorisation, negotiation, etc. The outdoor works were thus signed by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, while the preparatory drawings were signed by Christo.

Land art and street art

In 1964, they emigrated to the United States and designed ever more ambitious projects involving buildings, monuments and outdoor landscapes: this was known as land art.

But Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art is also street art and interactivity with the public forms an integral part of the creation.

Christo always considers the human and environmental impact of his projects. He says: “My art is the result of thinking and an aesthetic intuition imposed on a natural and built-up environment”.

Ephemeral art

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s creations are also characterised by their ephemeral nature. It may take months or years to prepare an installation, and weeks or months to set it up... But the work itself only lives for a few hours.

What the art means

When a monument is wrapped, it takes another form, another identity: Christo practices the art of “revealing by concealing”.

A great deal of research has been done into Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art to try and understand what it means. On their official website, Christo and Jeanne-Claude explain that their art is gratuitous. It has no particular meaning, no function and no message to put across. It’s art for art’s sake, pure technique. They also emphasise the fact that they finance their creations themselves and that, because they are ephemeral, they are never sold. Only Christo’s preparatory drawings are sold and used to finance the creation of the outdoor works.

Works

- Iron Curtain: the wall of oil barrels
- Valley Curtain (1970-1972): a saffron curtain blocks a Californian valley in the State of Colorado.
- Running Fence, California.
- Surrounded Islands (1980-1983): the islands in the Bay of Biscayne, Miami are circled by a fuchsia pink polypropylene belt in May 1983.
- Wrapping up the Pont Neuf (22 September to 7 October 1985): the Pont Neuf in Paris, the oldest of the bridges in the French capital, is wrapped in ochre-yellow polyester.
- Parasol Bridge: the artists create a symbolic bridge between East and West, on both sides of the Pacific coast.
- Wrapping the Bundestag (23 June to 7 July 1995): the Bundestag in Berlin, home of the German parliament, is wrapped in silver fabric 2.5 millimetres thick.
- The Gates (2004-2005): a 37-kilometre route through Central Park in New York, punctuated by 7,500 gates from which hang an orange-saffron coloured vinyl fabric.

Find out more about the creations of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Find out more about the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude on their official website (in English).

See the list of exhibitions by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

See the list of museums in which the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude are presented.

News

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s forthcoming creations:

- Over the river (Arkansas, Colorado). The project consists of suspending a 10 km length of fabric above the water level, following the river’s configuration. It is planned for summer 2009.

- The Mastaba in the United Arab Emirates.

Further information about the Over the river project on the official Christo and Jeanne-Claude website.

Further information about the The Mastaba project on the official Christo and Jeanne-Claude website.

Useful links

The structured catalogue of Christo’s works.

Read the interview with Christo and Jeanne-Claude on their official website.

Identity

Nationality(ies) : American
Born on : 13/06/1935
Profile : Designer, Engineer
Artistic current(s) : Contemporary Art , Modern Art
Theme(s) covered : Events, Landscapes - Nature, World cities

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