An artist couple like no other, Christo and Jeanne-Claude enhanced the genre of land art, presenting a different approach to the environment and raising our expectations of it. Working in large-scale and thinking big, they are responsible for some of the most influential pieces of that particular artistic field.
Over time, their projects and installations gradually progressed and grew, both in scale, concept and contextual relevance. However, they have repeatedly rejected all theories that these works contain any kind of deeper meaning other than their immediate aesthetic impact.
Their artistic and personal relationship, that lasted over fifty years, ended when Jeanne-Claude died in 2009. Yet, Christo continued working, finally creating a grand project they had previously conceived together.
Christo himself died in 2020, at the age of 84. His last project, L'arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, will take place as planned from September 18 until October 3, 2021 in Paris.
Featured images: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16; Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo; Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971-95; Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 1995 Christo; Valley Curtain, Rifle, Colorado, 1970-72; Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 1972 Christo. All images via christojeanneclaude.net, used for illustrative purposes.
With the assistance of 147 students, Christo and Jeanne-Claude completed the 42,390 Cubic Feet Package at the Minneapolis School of Art in 1966. The core of the air package was comprised of four United States Army high altitude research balloons and 2,800 colored balloons.
Each of the high altitude balloons was 18 feet high and 25 feet in diameter, each independently sealed. This was all wrapped in 8,000 square feet of clear polyethylene, sealed with Mylar tape and secured with 3,000 of Manila rope, and further inflated by two air blowers.
Despite the initial plan to fly the package from the school campus to the front lawn of the nearby Minneapolis Institute of Arts, it was lifted only 20 feet off the ground due to its weight of 500 pounds.
Featured images: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - 42,390 Cubic Feet Package, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1966; Photo: Carroll T. Hartwell © 1966 Christo
With the help of 35 construction works and 64 temporary helpers, art-school and college students and itinerant art workers, the piece Valley Curtain was finally completed in August 1972, stretching between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs in the Grand Hogback Mountain Range.
The 200,200 square feet of woven nylon fabric orange curtain was secured with 27 ropes and. The impressive project took 28 months to complete and it was removed after only 28 hours due to a gale estimated in excess of 60mph.
Featured image: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - Valley Curtain, Rifle, Colorado, 1970-72; Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 1972 Christo; Photos by Shunk-Kender and Wolfgang Volz © 1972 Christo
After a struggle spanning the seventies, eighties and nineties, the Reichstag was finally wrapped in June 1995 with help of 90 professional climbers and 120 installation workers. The building was wrapped with 1,076,390 square feet of thick woven polypropylene fabric with an aluminum surface and 9,7 miles of blue polypropylene rope.
The façades, the towers and the roof were covered by 70 tailor-made fabric panels. All materials were subsequently recycled. Reflecting the classical tradition of using fabric in the history of art, the fragility of the material translated the unique quality of impermanence.
The imposing building was wrapped for 14 days, with the richness of the silvery fabric highlighting its features and proportions.
Featured image: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971-95; Photos Wolfgang Volz © 1995 artist Christo
The piece Running Fence extended east-west near Freeway 101, north San Francisco, on the private properties of 59 ranchers, following the rolling hills and dropping down to the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Bay.
Completed in September 1976, it took 42 months of collaborative efforts. It consisted of 2,152,780 square feet of heavy woven white nylon fabric, hung from a steel cable strung between 2,050 steel poles embedded 3 feet into the ground with guy wires and 14,000 earth anchors.
After being suspended for 14 days, it was dismantled and all the materials were given to the ranchers.
Featured image: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76; Photos by Wolfgang Volz and Gianfranco Gorgoni © 1976 Christo
With the help of forty construction days, the 820-foot section of the Aurelian Walls surrounding the city of Rome was wrapped with polypropylene and rope over the course of four days.
The chosen section of the wall, built by the Roman Emperors Aurelian and Probus, was situated in one of the busiest avenues of Rome. The artists wrapped four arches of the wall, three heavily used by car traffic and one by pedestrians.
The installation lasted for 40 days, and all the materials were recycled upon the removal.
Featured image: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - The Wall - Wrapped Roman Wall, Via Veneto and Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy, 1973-74; Photo: Shunk-Kender © 1974 Christo
The surface of the water of the half-moon-shaped cove at King’s Beach in Newport, Rhode Island was covered with 150,000 square feet of white woven polypropylene floating fabric for a period of 18 days.
With the help of non-skilled workers, the project was completed in 8 hours. The piece stirred controversies for its environmental impact.
Featured image: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - Ocean Front, Newport, Rhode Island, 1974; Photos Gianfranco Gorgoni © 1974 Christo
The Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, was wrapped in September 1985 with the help of 300 professional works. It was covered with 450,000 square feet of woven polyamide fabric, silky in appearance and golden sandstone in color, without hindering river and car traffic.
The fabric was restrained by 8 miles of rope and secured by 12,1 tons of steel chains encircling the base of each tower, 3.3 feet underwater.
Continuing the tradition of successive metamorphosis by a new sculptural dimension, the project, lasting for 14 days, transformed the iconic bridge into a work of art.
Featured image: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85; Photos Wolfgang Volz © 1985 Christo
Conceived in the late 1970s, the installation The Gates in Central Park was finally completed in February 2005.
It comprised of 7,503 fabric panels along 23 miles that were 16 feet tall and varied in width from 5 feet 6 inches to 18 feet, according to the 25 different widths of walkways in the park.
The gate created out of saffron-colored vinyl could be seen from far away through the leafless branches of the trees. The work lasted for 16 days, after it was moved and recycled.
Featured image: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005; Photos Wolfgang Volz © 2005 Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Installed in Biscayne Bay, between the city of Miami, North Miami, the Village of Miami Shores and Miami Beach, the Surrounded Islands was completed in May 1983.
Eleven islands situated in these areas were surrounded by 6.5 million square feet of floating pink woven polypropylene fabric covering the surface of the water and extending out 200 feet from each island into the bay.
The fabric was sewn into 79 patterns in order to frame the contours of each island. The luminous pink color perfectly complemented the tropical vegetation of the islands and the color of the sea.
Featured image: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83; Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 1983 Christo
After Jeanne-Claude died in 2009, Christo continued working and in 2016, the artist created the most ambitious project ever.
Conceived by the couple, but executed by Christo alone, Floating Piers was a monumental installation in Italy that consisted of a runaway that floats on water, allowing people to walk freely across it.
Completely transforming the landscape of Lake Iseo located near Milan, it consisted of 100,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric, carried by a modular floating dock system of 220,000 high-density poly-ethylene cubes.
Installed for 16 days, the walkway formed by the artwork was 3 kilometers long, 16 meters wide and approximately 35 centimeters high with sloping sides.
Featured image: Christo and Jeanne-Claude - The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16; Photos Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
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