Categories: People

Christo

Christo (Jun 13, 1935) was born in Gabrovo, Bulgaria His father, Vladimir Javacheff, was a businessman and ran a fabric factory, and his mother, Tsveta Dimitrova, was the secretary at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia Professors from the Academy who visited his family observed Christo’s artistic talent while he was still of a very young age

Christo studied art at the Sofia Academy from 1953 to 1956 and went to Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic), until 1957, when he left for the West by bribing a railway official and stowing away with several other individuals on board a train transporting medicine and medical supplies to Austria

Christo quickly settled in Vienna and enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts After only one semester there, he traveled to Geneva and moved to Paris in 1958 His life in Paris was characterized by financial hardship and social isolation, which was worsened by his difficulty learning the French language He earned money by painting portraits, which he likened to prostitution and signed with his family name “Javachef” while his early works were signed “Christo” In 1973, after 17 stateless years, Christo became a United States citizen

Christo’s works include the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, the 24-mile (39 km)-long artwork called Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin counties in California, and The Gates in New York City’s Central Park

Major works:
On all their projects since 1972 they worked exclusively with photographer Wolfgang Volz At least five of their major projects were subjects of documentary films by Albert and David Maysles Although, Jeanne-Claude and Christo worked as creative equals on all of their art projects, only Christo’s name appeared on the finished products This was a conscious decision by both Jeanne-Claude and Christo because of the prejudices against female artists in the art world Jeanne-Claude said, “‘The decision to use only the name Christo was made deliberately when we were young because it was difficult for one artist to be established and we wanted to put all the chances on our side’” Therefore, Jeanne-Claude took on the role as Christo’s manager in order to advance their success The pair did not reveal Jeanne-Claude as the second half in the creative process until 1994

Oil Barrels:
Jeanne-Claude was a firm believer in the aesthetic beauty of works of art; she said, “‘We want to create works of art of joy and beauty, which we will build because we believe it will be beautiful’” However, that does not mean that Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s artworks were without larger political connotations Jeanne-Claude and Christo created a piece in response to the building of the Berlin Wall, in 1962 They blocked off the Rue Visconti in Paris with a wall of oil drums The 4-meter-high wall built with oil barrels completely closed the street and blocked all communication between Rue Bonaparte and Rue de Seine They said, “This ‘iron curtain’ can be used as a barricade during a period of public work in the street, or to transform the street into a dead end Finally its principle can be extended to a whole area or an entire city” As the police approached, Jeanne-Claude firmly stood her ground and guarded the art piece, arguing for it to stay in place just for a few more hours

Documenta 4:
In 1968, Christo and Jeanne-Claude had the chance to participate at the Documenta 4 in Kassel In addition to the sculpture, Corridor Storefronts, the couple wanted to build an air package with a volume of 5,600 m3, which would be lifted by cranes and visible from a distance of 25 km On 24 June 1968 their first attempt to fully inflate the air package failed, as the polyethylene skin tore as it was being raised After two more attempts and repeated repairs, and using two of the largest cranes in Europe, the project became a reality on 3 August 1968 The package rose to its maximum height of 280 feet (85 m) tall for a total of 10 hours (from 4:00 am through 2:00 pm on 4 August), becoming the largest inflatable structure with no skeleton ever constructed Of the $70,000 (USD) cost of this project, Christo and Jeanne-Claude had financed all but $3,000 (USD) from the sale of preparatory drawings, collages, and a Store Front

Wrapped Coast:
At the end of 1969 Jeanne-Claude and Christo wrapped the coast of Little Bay, in Sydney, Australia, on invitation by Australian collector John Kaldor and as part of the Alcorso-Sekers Travelling Scholarship With the support of John Kaldor, this became the first visit to Australia for international artists to make new work and the first in the series of Kaldor Public Art Projects

100 workers and 11 volunteers devoted 17,000 work hours to the project Christo wrapped two and a half kilometres of coast and cliffs up to 26 metres high The project required 95,600 m2 of synthetic fabric and 56 km of rope and was the largest single artwork ever made at this time The artwork was larger than Mount Rushmore, and visitors took an hour to walk from one end of the work to the other After initial resistance from the authorities and the public, reactions were largely positive, and had an enormous impact on art in Australia

Valley Curtain:
At the end of 1970 Christo and Jeanne-Claude began their preparations for the Valley Curtain project A 400-meter-long cloth was to be stretched across Rifle Gap, a valley in the Rocky Mountains near Rifle, Colorado The project required 14,000 m2 of cloth to be hung on four steel cables, fastened with iron bars fixed in concrete on each slope, and 200 tons of concrete The budget increased to $400,000, causing Christo and Jeanne-Claude additional problems with the financing Finally enough works of art were sold to raise the money and, on 10 October 1971, the orange-coloured curtain was ready for hanging, but was torn to shreds by wind and rock While a second curtain was being manufactured, Christo received a request from a Berlin art historian to wrap the Reichstag in response to the 1961 “Project for Wrapping a Public Building” On 10 August 1972, the second attempt to hang the cloth succeeded, but only 28 hours later it was destroyed by a storm gale in excess of 60 miles per hour

The project was shown in the documentary film Christo’s Valley Curtain, by David and Albert Maysles, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short

Running Fence:
In 1972, Christo and Jeanne-Claude began preparations for Running Fence: a fabric fence, supported by steel posts and steel cables, running through the landscape and leading into the sea The fence was to be 55 meters high and 40 kilometers long and constructed in Sonoma and Marin Counties, California For the project, 59 families of ranchers needed to be convinced and the permission of the authorities had to be obtained, so Christo and Jeanne-Claude hired nine lawyers At the end of 1973, Christo and Jeanne-Claude marked the path of the fence with wooden stakes On 29 April 1976, the work finally began after a long struggle against bureaucracy Approximately 200,000 m2 of nylon fabric, 2050 steel posts and 145 km of steel cable were needed On 10 September 1976 the work was completed However, Christo and Jeanne-Claude had to pay a $60,000 fine, because they lacked permission for the coastal region[citation needed]

Wrapped Walk Ways:
In 1977, Christo and Jeanne-Claude were mostly paying bank loans and trying to save money In addition, however, they continued to plan their future projects, like wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf in Paris, as well as “Wrapped Walk Ways”, a covering of footpaths in a Kansas City park In November, Christo met his parents, seeing his mother for the first time in 20 years

With “Wrapped Walk Ways” Christo and Jeanne-Claude covered 45 km of footpaths in Loose Park, a park in Kansas City, Missouri Altogether it required 12,500 m2 of orange-yellow-coloured shiny nylon fabric Pedestrians enjoyed the artwork for two weeks in October The cost of this project amounted to $130,000

Surrounded Miami Islands:
Christo and Jeanne-Claude planned a project based on Jeanne-Claude’s idea to surround eleven islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with 603,850 m2 of pink polypropylene floating fabric It was completed on May 7, 1983, with the aid of 430 workers and could be admired for two weeks

On May 7, 1983, the installation of Surrounded Islands was completed In Biscayne Bay, between the city of Miami, North Miami, the Village of Miami Shores, and Miami Beach, 11 of the islands situated in the area of Bakers Haulover Cut, Broad Causeway, 79th Street Causeway, Julia Tuttle Causeway, and Venetian Causeway were surrounded with 603,850 square meters (65 million square feet) of pink woven polypropylene fabric covering the surface of the water, floating and extending out 61 meters (200 ft) from each island into the Bay The fabric was sewn into 79 patterns to follow the contours of the 11 islands

For 2 weeks Surrounded Islands, spreading over 113 kilometers (70 mi), was seen, approached, and enjoyed by the public, from the causeways, the land, the water, and the air The luminous pink color of the shiny fabric was in harmony with the tropical vegetation of the uninhabited, verdant islands, the light of the Miami sky, and the colors of the shallow waters of Biscayne Bay

Since April 1981, attorneys Joseph Z Fleming and Joseph W Landers, marine biologist Anitra Thorhaug, ornithologists Oscar Owre and Meri Cummings, mammal biologist Daniel Odell, marine engineer John Michel, 4 consulting engineers, and builder-contractor Ted Dougherty of A & H Builders, Inc, had been working on the preparation of the Surrounded Islands The marine and land crews picked up debris from the eleven islands, putting refuse in bags and carting it away after they had removed some forty tons of varied refuse: refrigerator doors, tires, kitchen sinks, mattresses, and an abandoned boat

Permits were obtained from the following governmental agencies: The Governor of Florida and the Cabinet; the Dade County Commission; the Department of Environmental Regulation; the City of Miami Commission; the City of North Miami; the Village of Miami Shores; the US Army Corps of Engineers; and the Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management

From November 1982 until April 1983, 6,500,000 square feet (600,000 m2) of woven polypropylene fabric were sewn at the rented Hialeah factory, into 79 different patterns to follow the contours of the 11 islands A flotation strip was sewn in each seam At the Opa Locka Blimp Hangar, the sewn sections were accordion-folded to ease their unfurling on the water

The outer edge of the floating fabric was attached to a 305 centimeter (12 inch) diameter octagonal boom, in sections, of the same color as the fabric The boom was connected to the radial anchor lines, which extended from the anchors at the island to the 610 specially made anchors, spaced at 153 meter (50 ft) intervals, 76 meters (250 ft) beyond the perimeter of each island, driven into the limestone at the bottom of the Bay Earth anchors were driven into the land, near the foot of the trees, to secure the inland edge of the fabric, covering the surface of the beach and disappearing under the vegetation

The floating rafts of fabric and booms, varying from 37 to 67 meters (12 to 22 feet) in width and from 122 to 183 meters (400 to 600 feet) in length were towed through the Bay to each island There were 11 islands, but on two occasions two islands were surrounded together as one configuration

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As with Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s previous art projects, Surrounded Islands was entirely financed by the artists through the sale by CVJ Corporation (Jeanne-Claude Christo-Javacheff, President) of the preparatory pastel and charcoal drawings, collages, lithographs, and early works

On May 4, 1983, out of a total work force of 430, the unfurling crew began to blossom the pink fabric Surrounded Islands was tended day and night by 120 monitors in inflatable boats

Surrounded Islands was a work of art which underlined the various elements and ways in which the people of Miami live, between land and water

Pont Neuf:
On 14 March 1984, Jeanne-Claude became a US citizen; she held dual US and French citizenship In August the couple received permission to wrap the Pont-Neuf, which was completed in July 1606, after nine years of negotiations with the mayor of Paris, Jacques Chirac, and preparations for the project began For the wrapping of the nicest bridge in Paris, 40,000 m2 of sand-colored polyamide fabric was needed The golden sandstone color is used to imitate the color of pavements in Paris under sunset The wrapping began on 25 August 1985 and was completed on 22 September On the 5th of October, the project was removed after being viewed by over three million visitors All the expenses for The Pont Neuf Wrapped were borne by the couple themselves Just as in all other projects, they do not take sponsorship They usually utilize the money they make just selling the preliminary drawings of the project Wrapping the Pont Neuf continued the tradition of transforming a sculptural dimension into a work of art The fabric maintained the principal shapes of the Pont Neuf but it emphasized the details and the proportions

The Umbrellas, Japan–USA, 1984–91 :
Christo and Jeanne-Claude prepared for their next project, “The Umbrellas” The plan was to have yellow umbrellas set up in California and blue umbrellas in Japan at the same time In December 1990, after much preparation, the first steel bases for the umbrellas were installed At the bases 80 cm long anchors were fastened to the ground to withstand tensions of 1,500 kgf (15 kN) In September 1991 the umbrellas were brought to their places by 2,000 workers In California, some of the bases were transported to the site by helicopter The final cost of the project totaled $26 US million, and it was completely financed by the artists themselves through sale of preparatory drawings etc They do not take any form of sponsorship By September 7, 1,340 blue umbrellas in Ibaraki and 1,760 yellow umbrellas at the Tejon Ranch in southern California had been set up; the exhibition opened on 9 October 1991 The umbrellas were positioned closely together in the limited space of Japan, whereas in California they were placed in all directions in its vast uncultivated land In total, 3 million people saw the umbrellas, each measuring 6 meters in height and 866 meters in diameter On October 27, they started the removal of this project and restored the land to earlier condition The umbrellas were taken apart and most of the elements were recycled The umbrellas became a huge tourist attraction, finding use as everything from picnic spots to wedding altars On 26 October 1991, one of the umbrellas in California was toppled by high winds, killing one woman and injuring several others The exhibit was ordered closed immediately A second death occurred during the removal of the umbrellas

Wrapped Reichstag:
After the project “The Umbrellas” Christo and Jeanne-Claude concerned themselves again with wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin With the support of the President of the Parliament, Rita Süssmuth, Christo and Jeanne-Claude worked to convince the elected Members of Parliament, going from office to office, writing explanatory letters to each of the 662 delegates and innumerable telephone calls and negotiations On 25 February 1995 after a 70-minute debate at the Parliament and a Roll Call vote, the Bundestag allowed the project to go ahead

Just under 100,000 m2 of fireproof polypropylene fabric, covered by an aluminum layer, and 15 km of rope were needed The wrapping began on 17 June 1995 and was finished on 24 June The spectacle was seen by five million visitors before the unveiling began on 7 July

Verhüllte Bäume (Wrapped Trees):
After 32 years, Christo and Jeanne-Claude wrapped 178 trees in Berower Park/Beyeler Foundation north-east of Basel between 13 November and 14 December 1998 To wrap the trees, the couple used 55,000 m2 of silver-grey shiny polyester fabric and 23 km of rope A pattern had to be made for each individual tree and so the natural shape of the branches pushed the fabric outwards, creating individual shapes in the sky The trees varied in height from 2 to 25 meters and in width from 1 to nearly 15 meters As with their other projects, this was financed by the sale of original works On view for three weeks, Wrapped Trees was extremely dynamic: varying silhouettes of trees moved in the wind with the skeletal framework of branches made visible when the translucent material was backlit by the sun All materials used in this project were recycled when it was taken down

Wrapped Snoopy House:
In 1978, Charles M Schulz drew an episode of his comic strip Peanuts in which Snoopy’s doghouse is wrapped in fabric by Christo In response, Christo constructed a wrapped doghouse and presented it to the Charles M Schulz Museum in 2003

The Gates:
On 3 January 2005, work began on the installation of the couple’s most protracted project, The Gates, in Central Park in New York City The title is “The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979–2005” in reference to the time that passed from their initial proposal until they were able to go ahead with it: only with the permission of the new mayor of New York, Michael R Bloomberg, were they able to proceed After the project was completed, Bloomberg released the following statement about “The Gates,” “Mayor Michael R Bloomberg, [] praised The Gates as ‘one of the most exciting public art projects ever put on anywhere in the world — and it would never have happened without Jeanne-Claude’”

“The Gates” was open to the public from 12 February until 27 February 2005 A total of 7,503 gates made of saffron color fabric were placed on paths in Central Park They were five meters high and had a combined length of 37 km Bloomberg, a fan of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, presented them with the “Doris C Freedman Award for Public Art” for the work of art Christo and Jeanne-Claude often expressed satisfaction that their concept for their home town of over 30 years was finally realized

The cost of the project was $21 million US dollars which was raised entirely by Christo and Jeanne-Claude selling studies, drawings, collages, works from the 1950s and 1960s They do not accept any sponsorship, nor did the city of New York have to provide any money for the project Christo and Jeanne-Claude donated all the money raised from the sale of souvenirs such as postcards, T-shirts and posters to “Nurture New York’s Nature, Inc” While the engineering, manufacturing and set-up took over a year, about 750 paid employees erected the project in five days and then deployed the fabric of all the gates in half an hour Around 600 more (“Gate-keepers”) distributed 1 million free samples of the fabric to visitors The uniformed Gate-keepers also provided information to visitors about the project, and were responsible for unrolling the gates that had rolled over their crossbars in the high wind[citation needed] More workers uninstalled the project in one week, leaving almost no trace and shipping all the materials for recycling

Big Air Package:
Christo filled the Gasometer Oberhausen from 16 March until 30 December 2013 with the installation Big Air Package After “The Wall“ (1999) as the finale installation of the Emscher Park International Building Exhibition, Big Air Package was his second work of art in the Gasometer The “Big Air Package – Project for Gasometer Oberhausen, Germany“ was conceived by Christo in 2010 (for the first time without his wife Jeanne-Claude) The sculpture was set up in the interior of the industrial monument and was made of 20,350 square metres of translucent fabric and 4,500 metres of rope In the inflated state, the envelope, with a weight of 53 tons, reached a height of more than 90 metres, a diameter of 50 metres and a volume of 177,000 cubic metres The monumental work of art was, temporarily, the largest self-supporting sculpture in the world In the accessible interior of Big Air Package, the artist generated a unique experience of space, proportions and light

The Floating Piers:
The Floating Piers were a series of walkways installed at Lake Iseo near Brescia, Italy From June 18 to July 3, 2016, visitors were able to walk just above the surface of the water from the village of Sulzano on the mainland to the islands of Monte Isola and San Paolo The floating walkways were made of around 200,000 polyethylene cubes covered with 70,000 square metres (750,000 sq ft) of bright yellow fabric: 3 kilometres (19 mi) of piers moved on the water; another 15 kilometres (093 mi) of golden fabric continued along the pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio After the exhibition, all components were to be removed and recycled The installation was facilitated by the Beretta family, owners of the primary side arm supplier of the American Army The Beretta family owns the island of San Paolo, which was surrounded by Floating Piers walkways

Over The River:
Christo and Jeanne-Claude announced plans for a future project, titled Over The River, to be constructed on the Arkansas River between Salida, Colorado and Cañon City, Colorado on the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains This scenic area is known as Bighorn Sheep Canyon, and is west of the well-known Royal Gorge Plans for the project call for horizontally suspending 67 miles (108 km) of reflective, translucent fabric panels high above the water, on steel cables anchored into the river’s banks Project plans call for its installation for two weeks during the summer of 2015, at the earliest, and for the river to remain open to recreation during the installation

Reaction among area residents has been intense with supporters hoping for a tourist boom and opponents fearing that the project would ruin the visual appeal of the landscape and inflict damage on the river ecosystem One local rafting guide compared the project to “hanging pornography in a church” The Bureau of Land Management released a Record of Decision approving the project on November 7, 2011 Work on the project cannot begin, however, until the Bureau of Land Management issues a Notice to Proceed A lawsuit against the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife was filed on July 22, 2011, by Rags Over the Arkansas River (ROAR), a local group opposed to the project The lawsuit is still awaiting a court date

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s inspiration for “Over the River” came in 1985 as they were wrapping the Pont-Neuf and a fabric panel was being elevated over the Seine The artists began a three-year search for appropriate locations in 1992, considering some eighty-nine river locations They chose the Arkansas River because its banks were high enough that recreational rafters could enjoy the river at the same time

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have already spent more than $6 million on environmental studies, design engineering, and wind-tunnel testing of fabrics As with past projects, Over The River would be financed entirely by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, through the sale of Christo’s preparatory drawings, collages, scale models, and early works of the 1950s/1960s On July 16, 2010, the US Bureau of Land Management released its four-volume Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which reported many potentially serious types of adverse impact but also many proposed “mitigation” options

In January 2017, after the election of President Trump, Christo cancelled the controversial project in protest of the new administration

Mastaba:
The Mastaba is a planned trapezoidal structure of over 400,000 oil barrels, intended to be built at Al Gharbia, 100 miles from Abu Dhabi It will, if realised, be the only lasting Christo/Jeanne-Claude artwork

Public collections:
Boca Raton Museum of Art
Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporain, Nice, France
Cleveland Museum of Art: Wrapped Chair (1961)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art: ‘Portrait of Ray’ 1969
Honors and awards:
(2011) Awarded honorary degrees from Occidental College
(2011) Elected into the National Academy of Design
(2008) Awarded honorary degrees from Franklin & Marshall College
(2006) Best Project in a Public Space for The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005, AICA-USA Awards
(2006) Vilcek Prize in Fine Art
(2004) Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award, International Sculpture Center, Hamilton, NJ, USA
“Doris C Freedman Award for Public Art”
(1973) Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short

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