Surrounded Islands (Project for Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida)
Looking at these photos, how do you feel ? Are you smiling ? Feeling engaged more with mother nature, or just thinking ‘What’s the point of it?’ Well, these environmental artworks are realised before there is even a word environmentalism. Christo and Jeanne-Claude , collectively known as Christo, are mostly labelled as ‘wrapping artist’ from the media as they basically wrap the environment. However, if we dig deeper than that, their artworks often imply their love for earth, presenting nature and landscapes in an exciting, eye-catching new way of seeing.
‘Its temporary’ – Christo & Jeanne Claude
Since 1950s , together they have created series of subtle disturbances, the ephemeral installations that disturb your perspective on the spaces in some way. Their arts expanded across art, architecture, urban planning, engineering, sculpture, performance, and textiles. They are temporary, set in open landscapes around the world both urban and rural in nature. They are there, to make people aware of their environment and surrounding spaces. Even though they are massive scale, large cost, and temporary, the installations are environment friendly. They are fully recycled at the end of the display – Christo gave the fabrics it to his workers and ranchers and found out later that one did make a wedding gown for his daughter out of those nylon fabrics !
“On Planet Earth there is no forever,
Everything is more or less temporary.”
Valley Curtain, Rifle, Colorado, 1970-72
Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76
Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971-95
Big Air Package, Gasometer Oberhausen, Germany, 2010-13
Wrapped Trees, Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park, Riehen, Switzerland, 1997-98″ 178 trees, 53,283 m² of woven polyester fabric, 23 km of rope
Wrapped Coast, One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia, 1968-69
Some of these massive scale projects have taken many years. The hardest part of their work is often to get a permission from the space. For example, The Wrapped trees took 32 years for permission. Christo most famous for wrapping the Reichstag (A Parliament House in Berlin) in fabric in 1995, and it is the most struggling one. They battled to get a permission for nearly 3 decades, and when it was wrapped, it lasted only for 14 days. All these projects, the artist’s paid themselves to do. They have never been accepted a commission or sponsorship in any kind, as for the reason to keep their art ‘pure’.
“Another famous work was the wrapping of the Pont Neuf, Paris. This was wrapped in 1985 and took 300 workers and used 40,876 square meters of polyamide fabric which even covered the street lamps on either side of the bridge. Pedestrians actually walked upon this fabric.”
Personally, I like the unexpected emotion that emerges when seeing the works, bringing millions of people the new way of seeing, the sights they once thought impossible. From a textiles designer point of view, I love how they use the ephemeral beauty of soft texture in their works. The fabric looks almost like a second skin, adorning spaces and buildings just like clothes do for human body. A shiny material wrapping, pleating, and draping – all gives a sense of tactility in a bigger scale.
The other aspects that I like is that their works are monumental. They are not meant to last. You can only revisit them through photographs, film, and the artists’ drawings and collages. Their outdoor installations usually last no more than two weeks, which is romantic in a way that nothing lasts forever. Only a committed heart to pure joy of an aesthetic experience, especially one that does not last, would understand.
As one of the most stylish couple in the art world, they met in Paris in 1958, Christo was painting a portrait for Jeanne’s mothers. He was still washing dishes at that time. The artists, who have been working together for 50 years, were asked about it, to which Jeanne-Claude responded, “We’re just starting.”
What an ideal love ❤ Imagine we all have a work and life partner like this. Sadly, Jeanne Claude’s passed away in 2009 , yet Christo continues to live their iconic collaboration of more than 50 years. I wish I had seen his art once in a life time.
For more inspiration & photos explore Christo & Jeanne Claude