Americans for the Arts mourns the loss of conceptual artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, known simply as Christo, who passed away in his home in New York City on Sunday, May 31 at the age of 84. Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude were widely known for their grand-scale temporary installations. Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009.
Americans for the Arts honored Christo and Jeanne-Claude at the 2003 National Arts Awards with the Artistic Excellence Award to commend their artistic contributions to American art and culture. Their epic-scale environmental works often took years or even decades of careful planning, public and political persuasion, permits, and environmental solutions, which the artists considered part of their artistic process.
In learning of Christo’s passing, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, Robert L. Lynch offered these words: “Christo’s legacy, alongside that of his late wife Jeanne-Claude, is one that defies categorization. As much community organizers as artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude worked outside of the traditional economic systems of the art world to fund their large-scale projects; they understood the power of grass roots advocacy and engaging every strata of society in dialogue. By wrapping, draping, and concealing their subjects, they paradoxically heightened their visibility. Christo was an active and treasured member of our artist community and he will be sorely missed.”
Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s work together spanned half a century of site-specific environmental installations, often engulfing large landmarks and landscapes in fabric. This includes the Reichstag in Berlin; the Pont Neuf in Paris; a million-square-feet of coastline near Sydney, Australia; Valley Curtain over the Rifle Gap in Colorado; Surrounded Islands, in Biscayne Bay, off the coast of Miami, Florida; Running Fence in California; and The Gates in New York City’s Central Park. Though originally conceived in 1979, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s installation of The Gates was completed in February 2005. For two weeks over 7,500 zigzagging steel frame gates stood throughout 23 miles of the park with saffron-colored fabric billowing among the trees. As with all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s works, The Gates was entirely financed by the artists themselves, rather than accepting sponsorship or donations. The Gates work generated over $80 million of economic impact for the city of New York.
Christo’s latest work-in-progress, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris), is still on track for September 18 – October 3, 2021. Initially proposed in 1962, the landmark will be wrapped in 25,000 square meters of silvery-blue polypropylene fabric and 7,000 meters of red rope.
Americans for the Arts is fortunate to have been associated with Christo, and is deeply saddened by his passing.
(Photo of Christo at the 2015 National Arts Awards in New York City by Will Raggozino.)