Published  02/06/2020
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Christo (1935-2020)

Christo (1935–2020)

The Bulgarian-born artist famed for wrapping massive structures, great bodies of water and chunks of coastline died on Sunday at his home in New York, aged 84

Christo in his studio with a preparatory drawing for The Mastaba, 2012. Photo: Wolfgang Volz. © 2012 Christo.

by JILL SPALDING

I am shocked to the core to know that Christo has left us. Cliffs don’t leave us. Coastlines don't leave us. The Reichstag and the Pont Neuf are still here. Each was stamped by Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and his wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon with more than a passing intervention. Palimpsests all, but also actual and present. How is it possible that Christo is not?

Many artists have marked. Yves Klein autographed the sky; Jean Tinguely fashioned sculpture to self-destruct; Robert Smithson spiralled 6,650 tons of rock into Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Christo’s wrapped heroics reached another level altogether.

Eleven islands floated on Biscayne Bay in pink woven polypropylene fabric; 7,503 gates threaded through 23 miles of Central Park; sheets of fabric strung over chasms. And the mind boggles at the footprint of the projected Abu Dhabi Mastaba – outspacing, Christo gleefully told me, when I interviewed him for Studio International in 2018, the Great Pyramid of Giza with its bespoke 6 sq kilometres of desert. His elation was not mindless – he acknowledged the scope of his and Jeanne-Claude’s accomplishment. Yet even after losing her steadying hand, he downplayed its value. As he observed of the fabric joining three landmasses near Brescia to let people walk on water: “These projects are irrational, totally useless, the world can live without them”– existing only, he added, “because we like to have them.” They are his legacy and our gift. Thankfully, we shan’t have to live without the forthcoming silver-wrapped Arc de Triomphe. I don't know another artist who has made monuments of form, space, light and time.

Read here Jill Spalding’s interview with Christo, which took place in November 2018 at his studio in New York.




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