Christo at "The Floating Piers", 2016

Liberation under wraps

Artist duo Christo and Jeanne Claude achieved international fame with their spectacular ‘wrapping’ projects, pushed the boundaries in the process and giving us new ways of seeing things. Now Christo Javacheff has died in New York City at the age of 84.
by Daniel von Bernstorff | 6/2/2020

Christo is dead. Somehow this seems incredible. After all, the massive projects the artist duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude left us with so many unforgettable impressions. Recently showcases in the solo exhibition entitled “Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Projects 1963-2020” in Berlin’s Palais Populaire and enlivened by works from the Ingrid & Thomas Jochheim Collection. At the very center of the exhibition stands the memory of the wrapped Reichstag in Berlin, those weeks in the summer of 1995 that are seared permanently in our minds, a time when everything seemed easy and possible. The fort-like building so steeped in history was wrapped in great lengths of fabric – and thus for a moment stripped of its gravity and dark history. People from all over the world flocked to join in celebrating a gigantic festival of openness, tolerance, and joy. And in the midst of them all Christo and Jeanne-Claude, so close to their own work, so close to all the people. So much lightness and closeness seem so far away at this particular moment in time. Show just how incredibly relevant and contemporary that project still is.

With their temporary changes to architecture, to nature, to urban space, always accessible to the public without any barriers and at no cost, they repeatedly realized quite impossible projects, against all the odds. Each project was often preceded by years or decades of preparatory work, by tussles to get public authorities and environmental protection associations to issue the relevant approvals, by challenges that not infrequently led to long delays. The sheer scale of the wraps grew steadily, from their first pieces with everyday objects such as cans, bottles and chairs, first to store fronts and then on to large projects such as “Valley Curtain” in the Rocky Mountains (1971), “Surrounded Islands” in Florida (1983), “The Gates” in New York’s Central Park (2005) or “The Floating Piers” on Lago d’Iseo in Italy (2016). For the temporary sculpture "The London Mastaba" in London's Hyde Park (2018), he had over seven thousand colorfully painted oil barrels stacked into a pyramid shape. The planned follow-up to "The Mastaba" in the Arab Emirates is to become the world's largest sculpture with 410,000 barrels and a height of 150 meters. These were proverbial worlds that Christo and Jeanne Claude repeatedly bridged with their unique art.

The duo’s very last project has been postponed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic – namely to wrap the “L'Arc de Triomphe” in Paris. It will now take place in the fall of 2021. The plan is to package the landmark in 25,000 square meters of silver-blue recyclable polypropylene fabric using 7,000 meters of red rope. Parallel to the action, a comprehensive exhibition will run at Centre Georges Pompidou covering the years Christo and Jeanne-Claude spent in Paris. The city where the duo first met each other and where they first started creating artworks for the public space.

Christo and Jeanne Claude, Projects 1963-2020
Ingrid & Thomas Jochheim Collection
Palais Populaire Berlin
Unter den Linden 5
10117 Berlin

Until August 17, 2020

Christo and Jeanne-Claude at "The Gates", 2005