The husband-and-wife artist team, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, enjoyed a fifty-year partnership from their meeting in 1959 to Jeanne-Claude's passing in 2009 due to a brain aneurysm. Their work included large-scale, temporary public art installations. The couple was proudly self-financed throughout their career, selling conceptual sketches and collages and designing storefronts for revenue. Until 1994, all work was only credited to Christo, but the couple then revealed that they had always been working together.
Christo was born on June 13, 1935 in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. After art training at the Sofia Academy, he fled Communism to settle in Paris, where he earned his living as a portrait painter. Coincidentally, Jeanne-Claude was also born on June 13, 1935 in Casablanca, Morocco into a French family. She earned a degree in Latin and philosophy from the University of Tunis before settling in Paris in 1957. The couple met when Christo painted a portrait of Jeanne-Claude's mother. After Jeanne-Claude became pregnant by Christo, she ended her engagement to another man. The couple's son, Cyril, was born in 1960.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude began their joint artistic career in 1961, covering barrels with fabric in the port of Cologne, Germany. The following year they created Iron Curtain, a road blockade in Paris made of stacked oil barrels. The couple moved to New York City in 1964 and began showing work in galleries while also creating storefronts.
Over the next four decades, Christo and Jeanne-Claude would become world-famous artists as a result of high-profile public projects, such as: Wrapped Coast (1968-1969), which involved covering a large portion of the coast of Little Bay in Sydney, Australia with synthetic fabric; Valley Curtain (1971-1972), which featured a massive red cloth suspended amid the Rocky Mountains near Rifle, Colorado; Running Fence (1976), in which a fabric fence spanned twenty-five miles in Sonoma and Marin Counties north of San Francisco; Surrounded Islands (1983), which saw eleven islands rimmed with pink fabric in Miami's Biscayne Bay; Wrapped Pont-Neuf (1985), in which Paris' oldest bridge was wrapped with polyamide material; The Umbrellas (1991), which featured 3,000 huge yellow umbrellas set up in Southern California and Ibaraki, Japan; Wrapped Reichstag (1995), in which fabric and aluminum covered the German Parliament building in Berlin; and The Gates (2005), which consisted of 7,503 gates draped with orange fabric in Central Park in New York.
After Jeanne-Claude's death in 2009, Christo oversaw The Floating Piers (2016), which included floating yellow walkways on Lake Iseo between two villages near Brescia, Italy, and The London Mastaba (2018), which featured 7,506 oil barrels arranged into a mastaba, or three-dimensional trapezoid, floating on the Serpentine in Hyde Park in London. Back in the 1970s, Christo and Jeanne-Claude had developed plans for The Mastaba, a gigantic, permanent structure composed of over 400,000 oil barrels near Houston/Galveston, Texas and Christo was hoping to execute this ultimately in Al Gharbia in the United Arab Emirates, about 100 miles south of Abu Dhabi.
Christo passed away in 2020 before this project was realized, but his nephew, Vladimir Yavachev, is continuing efforts to make this massive desert installation a reality. The multi-colored oil barrels would be arranged into a mosaic suggestive of Islamic architecture. If completed, The Mastaba would be the largest permanent work of art in the world. Yavachev has already realized one dream project that his uncle Christo and aunt Jeanne-Claude had in mind for over half a century: L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (2021). For two weeks at the start of fall in Paris, silver-blue fabric enclosed the entire iconic monument in what became a posthumous celebration of and tribute to the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Auction Results Christo
Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami; Wrapped Reichstag (two works)