On May 31st, the artist known as Christo, passed away at the age of 84, leaving behind him a legacy of work that brought joy and beauty to millions of people across the globe for over fifty years.
Christo was born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, on June 13, 1935 in Gabrovo, Bulgaria to a Bulgarian Industrialist family. He met his wife and creative partner, Jeanne-Claude (June 13, 1935 – November 18, 2009), in Paris, in March of 1958, they were married in October that year. It would be three years before Christo and Jean-Claude would complete their first collaboration and large-scale work, Stacked Oil Barrels and Dockside Packages, Cologne Harbor, 1961. Rolls of paper, oil barrels, tarpaulin and rope. Duration: two weeks.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude would come to be known for their larger than life, temporary, environmental installations often transforming mundane landscapes into dreamscapes.
In 1972, a bold, orange, 200,200 square foot woven nylon curtain was draped between two mountain slopes in Colorado. The installation,called Valley Curtain, remained for twenty-eight hours before a gale made removal necessary.
In 1983, off the coast of Miami, eleven islands in the Biscayne Bay were surrounded by 6.5 million square feet of luminous, pink woven, polypropylene fabric. The installation, called Surrounded Islands, was attended to, day and night, by 120 monitors in inflatable boats for two weeks while the public viewed the work from air, water and land.
In 1991, brilliant blue and canary yellow fabric umbrellas popped up in a valley in Japan and a valley in California, reflecting on the similarities and differences of two cultures. The installation, called The Umbrellas, consisted of 3,100 umbrellas, each 19’ 8” tall and 28’ 5” in diameter, was on view in each country, simultaneously, for 28 days before being disassembled and recycled.
The Floating Piers
From June 18 to July 3, 2016 thousands of people walked on the waters of Italy’s Lake Iseo. The Floating Piers, Christo’s most recent installation, consisted of 220,000 interlocking, polyethylene cubes covered in 100,000 square miles of shimmering yellow fabric.
Works in Progress
Christo’s current works in progress are The Mastaba, the only permanent installation ever designed by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, the latter of which is set to begin installation in Paris in 2021. According to a statement made by his office, “Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always made clear that their artworks in progress be continued after their deaths. Per Christo’s wishes, ‘L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped’ in Paris, France, is still on track for September 18 – October 3, 2021.” However it made no mention of a timeline for The Mastaba.
“Christo lived his life to the fullest,” the statement went on to say, “not only dreaming up what seemed impossible but realizing it. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s artwork brought people together in shared experiences across the globe, and their work lives on in our hearts and memories.”