Big, bold and beautiful: The incredible art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude
The artist Christo recently passed away at the age of 84. For decades, he and his wife Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, made headlines with their striking and provocative artworks, such as wrapping Germany's Reichstag building in fabric and installing a giant orange curtain between two mountain slopes in Colorado.
Christo was born in 1935, in Bulgaria. After traveling throughout Europe, he arrived at a small studio in Paris in 1958 and found some discarded empty paint cans. Inspired, he wrapped one in canvas and left another uncovered. Though he and Jeanne-Claude certainly explored many other materials and ideas, such as stacking oil barrels, this initial idea of wrapping objects would come to define his career.
Controversial and ambitious, he was often reluctant to expound on his art, telling the Guardian "I have no reason to justify myself as an artist. I cannot explain my art. Everything I do professionally is irrational and useless. I make things that have no function – except maybe to make pleasure."
He was firmly against sponsorship, independently funded even his most ambitious artworks, and ensured they could be visited free-of-charge. Once they ran their course, the works were duly dismantled and recycled.
The wrapping of Berlin's Reichstag is perhaps Christo and Jeanne-Claude's most famous achievement. After trying to get permission to wrap the historic home of German democracy throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the pair finally succeeded in 1995. A team of 90 climbers and 120 workers covered the building in aluminum-lined polypropylene fabric measuring 1,076,390 sq ft (100,000 sq m). Additionally, 70 large fabric panels were used and a total of 9.7 miles (15.6 km) of blue polypropylene rope helped secure it all in place. After two weeks, the work was dismantled.
Another notable work of wrapping involved covering a 1.5 mile (241 km) stretch of coastline in Sydney, Australia. It consisted of 1 million sq ft (92,900 sq m) of agricultural erosion-control fabric. 35 miles (56.3 km) of polypropylene rope and 25,000 fasteners, threaded studs and clips were used to secure it to the cliffside rock. The job took a team of climbers and workers four weeks. The coast remained covered for 10 weeks then efforts were made to return the site to its original condition.
Though Christo and Jeanne-Claude have now both died, their work will continue on for a little while longer. A previously commissioned artwork named L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped is still planned for the Paris monument in 2021, for example.
"Christo lived his life to the fullest, not only dreaming up what seemed impossible but realizing it," says a statement from his office. "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."
Head to the gallery to see a selection of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's art.
Source: Christo and Jeanne-Claude