A tribute to the life and works of Christo: The artist who wrapped the world
Although most of his masterpieces were only on display for a very short time, installation artist Christo knew how to leave his mark. With his wife Jeanne-Claude, Christo – who was born in Bulgaria – created incredible works of art all around the world, remaining active even after the death of his spouse in November 2009. The artist would have celebrated his 85th birthday on 13 June. According to the announcement made via his official Twitter account, Christo passed away in New York on 31 May.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude: An unstoppable artistic duo
The couple first drew widescale public attention in Germany in summer 1995, when they entirely encased Berlin’s Reichstag in silver fabric. The preparations for the “Wrapped Reichstag” had begun back in 1971.
Global projects by the “master of wrapping”
Whether he was working on a stretch of coastline, a mountain valley or kilometres of paths and fencing: For Christo, nothing was too large or too abstract for wrapping. Early in his artistic career, Christo began wrapping objects such as bicycles and cars, using a special paint that made the fabric rigid and gave the piece a sculptural finish.
The “Floating Piers” (2016), which joined two islands in Lake Iseo in northern Italy, also attracted huge numbers of visitors. The floating platforms were made of 220,000 anchored plastic cubes covered in around 75,000 square metres of golden-yellow fabric. These kinds of installations by Christo were huge events in the local area and attracted tourists from all over the world.
“Land art” and free art: A protest against the culture of ownership
Although his works were usually very expensive to create, Christo never accepted state subsidies for his art. His insistence on independence was rooted in his humble background. Born in 1935 in the Bulgarian town of Gabrovo as Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, Christo watched first-hand as his family’s company was nationalised after the war and his father was persecuted at the hands of the Communist regime. In 1957, after completing his studies at the Academy of Arts in Sofia, Christo left his home country.
Christo: The unrelenting visionary
To make their huge public works a reality, the couple often had to overcome significant bureaucratic and political hurdles. They viewed the negotiations and the long-winded planning and approval procedures as part of their artistic process. More than 30 of their projects never came to fruition due to protests from environmental activists, politicians or local residents. The mammoth Mastaba project in the desert sands of Abu Dhabi is one of the couple’s as-yet incomplete visions. Back in 1977, Christo and his wife designed a 150-metre pyramid to be constructed from oil barrels in the Persian Gulf.
Until recently, the 84-year-old artist had continued to work on further wrapping projects. Next year will see the realisation of his latest idea:
Are there any particular Christo and Jeanne-Claude projects that stand out in your memory, or do you have a favourite piece by the artists? Let us know in the comments.