From covered monuments to floating walkways
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The London Mastaba Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, London, UK. Photography: Wolfgang Volz (c) Christo
Following the passing of monumental artist Christo at the weekend, we delve into seven of his most significant projects realised in collaboration with his late partner Jeanne-Claude.
Wrapped Reichstag was one of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s more challenging projects, completed in 1995 after 24 years of negotiation that spanned six different presidents. The Berlin building’s 100k sq m of silvery wrapping was put up by a team of professional climbers and remained in place for just two weeks before being wholly recycled. The project cost over $15m, which was fundraised by the duo. Christo described it as ‘One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.’
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971-95. Photography: Wolfgang Volz © 1995 Christo
Wrapped Reichstag was one of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s more challenging projects, completed in 1995 after 24 years of negotiation that spanned six different presidents. The Berlin building’s 100k sq m of silvery wrapping was put up by a team of professional climbers and remained in place for just two weeks before being wholly recycled. The project cost over $15m, which was fundraised by the duo. Christo described it as ‘one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.’
The duo’s use of fabric extended beyond wrapping architecture and monuments, and in 1983 the pair covered seven miles of Biscayne Bay with luminous pink material. It was arranged to float on the water around the bay’s islands, with the fabric carefully sewn to follow their contours. In total, Christo and Jeanne-Claude used over 600,000 sq m of the bright pink material – chosen to complement the island’s tropical vegetation and the light of the Miami sky, which blossomed 61m out from each of the islands.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83. Photography: Wolfgang Volz © 1983 Christo
Visitors to New York’s Central Park enjoyed a new perspective on the city’s green space, thanks to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 2005 artwork The Gates. The piece was composed of over seven thousand portals, made of rectangular steel doorways hung with billowing yellow fabric. The installation framed pathways through the park, creating a ‘golden ceiling’ for those out on a stroll, and the image of a winding fabric river, for those seeing the piece from on high. As with all of the duo’s projects, the pair financed the project themselves (including paying and feeding the 1000-strong team that installed the gates).
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005. Photography: Wolfgang Volz © 2005 Christo and Jeanne-Claude
In 1971, the artist duo drew the curtain on the Grand Hogback Mountain Range in Colorado, after hanging a vast length of orange nylon across the rocky Rifle Gap valley. Over 100 people, including construction workers, college students and itinerant art workers, helped install the huge curtain, which stretched 381-metres wide. It took the pair more than two years to complete but had to be removed just two days after its completion – after a 60mph gale blew into the valley.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Valley Curtain, Rifle, Colorado, 1970-72.
Photography: Wolfgang Volz © 1972 Christo
Christo and Jeanne-Claude returned to the water in 2016 for The Floating Piers – a series of yellow fabric walkways that let visitors cross Lake Iseo in Italy’s Lombardy. The installation was held up by a floating dock system supported by polyethylene cubes, which meant the paths gently rippled along with the movement of the water.
Once across the lake, visitors could continue down the yellow walkways, with the fabric winding its way through the streets of Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio. Christo described the experience as similar to walking on water, ‘or perhaps the back of a whale.’
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The Floating Piers, Lake Iseo, Italy, 2014-16. Photography: Wolfgang Volz © 2016 Christo
One of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s earlier projects, Wrapped Coast, saw the pair cover the rocky shorefront of Sydney’s Little Bay.
The duo didn’t just wrap the rocks and sandy beach; they covered the 26-metre high cliffs that tower over the sea. The pair used ramset guns to fire 25,000 fasteners into the rocks to attach the material to the landscape. Professional mountain climbers installed the fabric across the 4.2km stretch of coast over four weeks. Unlike many of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s installations – which are often in place for just a couple of weeks – Wrapped Coast was on display for over two months before the landscape was uncovered again.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Wrapped Coast, One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia, 1968-69. Photography: Shunk-Kender © 1969 Christo
One of the artists’ unfinished artworks, The Mastaba in Abu Dhabi, was first dreamt up in 1977. Similar to the London Mastaba, (pictured top) it will be made of hundreds of thousands of coloured barrels tied together to resemble the form of ancient Islamic tombs. When completed, it will be the largest sculpture in the world – stretching 150-metres high – as well as the duo’s only permanent piece. In 2017, Christo told The Art Newspaper that the project was still ‘on track,’ but there’s not yet a date for its completion. It’s unclear whether it will be realised now that both artists have died.
Christo, Abu Dhabi Mastaba (Project for United Arab Emirates). Drawing 1977. Pencil, pastel and charcoal
42 x 65″ (106.6 x 165 cm). Private collection, USA. Photography: Eeva-Inkeri © 1977 Christo
Christo, The Mastaba of Abu Dhabi (Project for United Arab Emirates)
Scale model, 1979. Enamel paint, wood, paint, sand and cardboard. Photography: Wolfgang Volz © 1979 Christo