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 Jeanne-Claude Christo  (1935 - 2009)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: installations-wrappings, environmental art

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Jeanne-Claude Christo
from Auction House Records.
Wrapped Reichstag (Project for Berlin)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist, by William Grimes, November 19, 2009:

"Jeanne-Claude, Christo’s Collaborator on Environmental Canvas, Is Dead at 74"

Jeanne-Claude, who collaborated with her husband, Christo, on dozens of environmental art projects, notably the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Reichstag in Berlin and the installation of 7,503 vinyl gates with saffron-colored nylon panels in Central Park, died Wednesday in Manhattan, where she lived. She was 74.

A statement on the couple’s Web site, christojeanneclaude.net, said the cause was complications of a brain aneurysm.

Jeanne-Claude met her husband, Christo Javacheff, in Paris in 1958.  At the time, Christo, a Bulgarian refugee, was already making art of wrapped packages, furniture and oil drums. Three years later, they made their first work together, a temporary installation on the docks in Cologne, Germany, that consisted of oil drums and rolls of industrial paper wrapped in tarpaulin.

To avoid confusing dealers and the public, and to establish an artistic brand, they used only Christo’s name.  In 1994 they retroactively applied the joint name “Christo and Jeanne-Claude” to all outdoor works and large-scale temporary indoor installations. Other works were credited to Christo alone.

Their collaborative approach, as described on their Web site, remained constant throughout the years.  After he and his wife conceived an idea for a project, Christo made drawings, scale models and other preparatory works that were sold to finance the final project. With the help of paid assistants, they then did the on-site work: wrapping buildings, trees, walls or bridges; erecting umbrellas (“The Umbrellas,” 1991); spreading pink fabric around 11 islands in Biscayne Bay near Miami (“Surrounded Islands,” 1983).

“We want to create works of art of joy and beauty, which we will build because we believe it will be beautiful,” Jeanne-Claude said in a 2002 interview. “The only way to see it is to build it. Like every artist, every true artist, we create them for us.”

Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon was born on June 13, 1935, in Casablanca, where her father, a French army officer, was stationed. After attending schools in France and Switzerland, she earned a baccalaureate in Latin and philosophy in 1952 from the University of Tunis.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by their son, Cyril Christo of Santa Fe, N.M.

In 1962, Christo and Jeanne-Claude caused a sensation when, in response to the building of the Berlin Wall, they blocked the tiny Rue Visconti in Paris with a barricade of oil drums. Jeanne-Claude managed to stall the police as they closed in, arguing that the work, “Wall of Oil Barrels, Iron Curtain,” should stay in place a few hours more.

Jeanne-Claude and Christo moved to New York in 1964 and embarked on grander, more theatrical projects. Nothing, it seemed, was too large to be shrouded in fabric. In the late 1960s, they wrapped the Kunsthalle in Bern, Switzerland, just one of many buildings, walls and statues to come. In 1969 they wrapped a million square feet of coastline near Sydney, Australia.

Although wrapping remained the couple’s signature, they staged other environmental projects and public displays. At the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany, in 1968, they erected, with the assistance of two giant cranes, an inflated cylindrical fabric “package,” in appearance a bit like a stretched-out Michelin Man, that stood nearly 280 feet tall.

The projects became communal events, during construction and after. Millions of viewers were attracted to “The Umbrellas,” installed simultaneously in 1991 in Ibaraki, Japan, and at the Tejon Ranch in Southern California. “The Gates,” a series of flapping bannerlike panels installed in Central Park in 2005, also attracted more than five million viewers during the two weeks that the work lasted.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a statement released Thursday, 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 couple often had to overcome stiff resistance to their projects from municipal officials and citizens worried at the possible environmental impact of their work. Some critics dismissed their work as a repetitive series of stunts devoid of intellectual content. More often than not, however, the projects, once in place, turned out to be enormously popular.

Before Jeanne-Claude’s death, she and Christo were at work on two longstanding projects: “Over the River,” a series of fabric panels to be suspended over the Arkansas River in Colorado, and “The Mastaba,” a stack of 410,000 oil barrels configured as a mastaba, or truncated rectangular pyramid, envisioned for the United Arab Emirates.

Like all of their projects, these were intended to be temporary. Whether executed in oil drum or brightly colored fabric, the art of her and her husband, Jeanne-Claude said, expressed “ the quality of love and tenderness that we human beings have for what does not last.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/20/arts/design/20jeanne-claude.html


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An environmental installation artist and painter of architectural landscape drawings, Jean-Claude Christo, known as Jean-Claude, has become known for her collaborations with her husband, Javacheff Christo, in "wrapping" famous buildings and geographical landmarks with plastic and woven-fabric sheets.  Their joint projects include wrappings of the "Berne Kunsthalle" in 1968, a coastline area in Australia; the Reichstag, in Berlin; and the Pont Neuf in Paris.  In California, they oversaw the building of a running fence 18 feet high and 24.5 miles long and in Japan and California, designed a running series of 3,100 umbrellas.

In February 2005, the Christos oversaw the installation of one of their most attention-getting endeavors, The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005.  Opening February 11 and lasting sixteen days, it was the biggest art project in the history of New York City.  Seventy-five hundred frames, sixteen feet high, were placed at intervals along 23 miles of footpaths in the park.  Suspended from the frames were orange tinted fabric banners, intended to convey a "splash of sunrise" and what Javacheff Christo described as "a visual golden river".  But declining to say much about the project, the artist said: "This project is not involving talk. It's a real, physical space. It's not necessary to talk. You spend time, you experience the project". (Tribune)

Jeanne-Claude was born in Casablanca, Morocco on June 13, 1935, the same day as her husband. The couple have lived primarily in New York City, although they travel frequently.

They do not use their last name, Javacheff, but their son Cyril took the last name of Christo.  According to Bedford McIntosh, "In the past few years they have come to refer to themselves as the 'artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude,' recognizing her critical role in the projects. The titles on their more recent projects reflect this."

Funding for the site-specific works come from the sale of preparatory drawings, documents, and sculptures.

Sources:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Bedford McIntosh
Scottsdale Tribune, February 13, 2005, A17

Biography from GallArt.com:
Christo (born Javashev Christo) is best known for producing enormous packaging projects: he wraps parks, buildings, and entire outdoor landscapes. Christo has collaborated with his wife Jeanne-Claude for over 40 years on these projects. The two earn the huge amounts of money required to execute their monumental works by executing and then selling preparatory drawings to collectors and dealers.

Believing that people should have intense and memorable experiences of art outside the institution of the museum, Christo typically creates temporary wrappings -- generally lasting several weeks -- on a vast scale. Borrowing land, structures, and spaces used and built by the public (and, therefore, already laden with a history of associations and connotations), he momentarily intervenes in the local population’s daily rhythm in order to create "gentle disturbances" intended to refocus citizens' impressions. Such disturbances force each local participant/viewer to examine the way that social interaction becomes entrenched in routine and is consequently deadened.

In Christo’s printed and three-dimensional work, Christo wraps an object, challenging the viewer to accurately remember the concealed object and giving it the notion of rarity because it is inaccessible. Nine documentary films were made about the projects of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. One of their most famous projects is Running Fence, which they constructed in Sonoma and Marin Counties, California. Christo and Jeanne-Claude accept no sponsors, they pay for all their expenses for their projects with their own funds. Their work has been included in museum exhibitions in the United States, Australia, Europe and Israel, and are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art , the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.

In such installations as Wrapped Coast -- One Million Sq. Ft. (a 1969 fabric covering of Little Bay in Sydney, Australia), and Wrapped Floors, Wrapped Walk Ways (a 1971 intervention onto and into a house designed by Mies van der Rohe), traditional aesthetic criteria such as line, shape, form, and color are coupled with the immediacy of nature. Some wraps such as Valley Curtain (Rifle, Colorado, 1972), and Running Fence (California, 1976) are titans of dramatic effect, while others such as Wrapped Walk Ways (St. Louis, 1978) exude a romantic, bucolic, and elegant feeling. Regardless of effect or locale, the extensive lines of fabric running along sidewalks, across lawns, and over walls give the environments a renewed sense of intimacy. Although the sense of enclosure and specificity is temporary, it permanently alters the way people experience a given locale.

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