Epic Conceptual Artist Christo is Turning 80

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (1971-95) Photo: Wolfgang Volz via christojeanneclaude.net

The Bulgarian-American conceptual artist Christo—who, together with his wife and partner Jeanne-Claude revolutionized the genres of conceptual and land art—will turn 80 next Saturday.

The duo gained international fame for their ambitious, complex, and expensive projects, such as Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (1971-95); The Pont Neuf Wrapped (1985), Paris; and erecting 7,503 orange gates in New York’s Central Park as part of their The Gates project (1979-2005) (see Christo Will Let You Walk on Water in Italy).

Christo explained that throughout his career his projects have always followed the same pattern. First, his proposals are met by incomprehension, then rejection, and then resistance. He’s always had to convince authorities and win people over (see Christo’s Planned Arkansas River Project Wins Lawsuit).

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida (1980-83)  Photo: Wolfgang Volz via christojeanneclaude.net

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida (1980-83)
Photo: Wolfgang Volz via christojeanneclaude.net

The same happened during the preliminary phase of his masterpiece: the wrapping of Berlin’s Reichstag in 1995. “Without Rita Süssmuth it probably would have never worked out,” he told Art Magazin. “The resistance to the project was enormous because the people didn’t understand how the project could be viewed as art,” he explained.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude The Gates, Central Park, New York City 1979-2005  Photo: Wolfgang Volz via christojeanneclaude.net

Christo and Jeanne-Claude The Gates, Central Park, New York City (1979-2005)
Photo: Wolfgang Volz via christojeanneclaude.net

When the Reichstag was eventually covered with 100,000 square meters of special material and the spectacle attracted five million visitors, his critics fell silent. The German television station WDR even had to cancel a debate on the controversial project because they couldn’t find any opponents.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Wrapped Coast, One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia (1968-69)  Photo: Harry Shunk via christojeanneclaude.net

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Coast, One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia (1968-69)
Photo: Harry Shunk via christojeanneclaude.net

Despite his age and the death of Jeanne-Claude six years ago, the artist isn’t thinking about retirement. “Why should I stop? I love my work,” he said.


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