Christo Vladimirov Javacheff (Bulgaria, 1935-2020) and Jeanne-Claude (Morocco, 1935-2009) are internationally renowned visual artists who insist on joint credit for their larger-than-life artistic endeavors. They worked together collaboratively starting in 1961, crossing oceans and continents for installations, ultimately leaving no traces. They set out to create temporal, impermanent works of art, often on a monumental scale, with Christo and Jeanne-Claude briefly transforming a natural or man-made landmark into a spectacle that is not to be missed.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s installations create entire environments. The projects invite viewers to participate in and engage with an otherwise familiar scene in an entirely new way.
From covering valleys in Tejon Ranch, California, and Ibaraki, Japan, with giant umbrellas to devising floating yellow piers in Lake Iseo, Italy, where people could walk on water, to wrapping the islands of our own Biscayne Bay with bright pink polypropylene fabric (Surrounded Islands), Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s works are an ode to the ephemeral. A few of their most notable works include Wrapped Reichstag (Berlin 1971 - 1995), The Pont Neuf Wrapped (Paris 1975-1985), and The Gates (New York 1979 - 2005).
The Library played a major role in Surrounded Islands, with its ArtMobile educating the public about the project. From the ArtMobile, the public would learn that Christo’s installations or “interventions” on the landscape were completely self-funded. Christo paid for the projects with revenue from the initial renderings, drawings, and artworks that were models for the actual installation. He received no public or private donations and the installations were free and open to the public. Christo does not collect royalties from the sale of subsequent books, photographs, or posters, and he does not accept volunteer workers or donated materials. All 430-plus workers for this project were paid, and the materials, which were fabricated explicitly for the project and required employment of many engineers, scientists, and lawyers, were privately funded by the artist.
The impact of these immense temporary structures is great, and lives on longer than the pieces themselves, creating a lasting impression on anyone lucky enough to witness them.