The international art world was saddened to learn of the passing of one of its truly great characters, the Bulgarian-born sculptor and concept artist Christo, who died at home in New York on 31 May.
Christo and his wife Jeann-Claude were famous for wrapping up giant objects – famous buildings, landmarks and even entire landscapes. So right off the bat is our first Arty Fact: Both Christo Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon were on the same day, 13 June 1935, but at opposite ends of the Mediterranean – he in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, and she in Casablanca, Morocco. Jean-Claude died of a stroke on 18 November 2009, also in New York. Both used their first names and were among the most famous working artistic couples.
“Christo lived his life to the fullest, not only dreaming up what seemed impossible but realising it,” a statement from his office read. “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.”
Christo was working on perhaps his most ambitious project ever, to wrap Paris’s Arc de Triomphe in 269,097 square feet of fabric. The couple first conceived the idea in 1962, and the project is still expected to be executed in September 2021 after being delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The act of wrapping was only one facet of each project, which included the Reichstag in Berlin, the Pont Nuef bridge in Paris, a giant curtain across a canyon in Colorado, and their largest work, Surrounded Islands in Biscayne Bay Florida in 1988. The couple considered the bureaucratic wrangling required to realise such works —as well as related documentation including environmental impact reports, drawings, and diagrams— to also be a part of the works.
According to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s official website, the couple wrapped the Berlin Reichstag building in 1995 after 24 years of lobbying officials across six Bundestag presidents: “The wrapping became symbolic of unified Germany and marked Berlin’s return as a world city. Christo’s Wrapped Objects explore the transformative effect fabric and tactile surfaces have when wrapped around familiar objects. The concealment caused by the fabric challenges the viewer to reappraise the objects beneath and the space in which it exists.”