(with the exeption of the selected bibliography, the following information all comes from the authorized web site maintained as a resource for those interested in the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude: http://christojeanneclaude.net)
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were both born on June 13, 1935. In 1994 they decided to officially change the artist name "Christo" into : "the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude." They have been working together since their first outdoor temporary work: "Dockside Packages, Cologne Harbor, 1961." Because Christo was already an artist when they met in 1958 in Paris, and Jeanne-Claude was not an artist then, they have decided that their name will be " Christo and Jeanne-Claude," NOT Jeanne-Claude and Christo. They are very proud of their son Cyril, born on May 11, 1960, he is a poet and has five books of his poems already published. In 1985, when Cyril was 25 years old, he produced a documentary film against war "A Stitch for Time" and it was nominated for an Academy Award® (Oscar®).
The temporary quality of the projects is an AESTHETIC decision. In order to endow (donate, make a gift) the works of art with the feeling of urgency to be seen, and the tenderness brought by the fact that it will not last. Those feelings are usually reserved for other temporary things such as childhood and our own life, those are valued because we KNOW that they will not last. These feelings of love and tenderness Christo and Jeanne-Claude want to offer to their works, as an added value, (dimension) as a new aesthetic quality.
The fact that Christo and Jeanne-Claude pay for their projects with their own money is also an aesthetic decision, they want to work in total freedom, that is why they accept no sponsors. Therefore they can do: what they want, how they want it, where they want it, but of course not always WHEN they want because it took them 24 years to get the permit for the Wrapped Reichstag, and ten years for The Pont Neuf Wrapped etc. . . .
All income from the sale of Christo’s early works of the fifties and sixties and preparation works on paper, drawings and collages, showing what a project will look like, is spent for the preparation, realization and removal of the projects: Materials, Labor, Shipping, Insurance, Engineering, Staff, Rentals, Legal, etc. The Christos do not spend their money on what is the usual pleasure of most people, they have their own priorities. Tthey spend their money on what is their pleasure: building works of art of joy and beauty for themselves and their collaborators, first of all, and for all to enjoy for free. There can be no money back on the expenses because they do not charge admission and they do not accept any commercial offers. The Christos have never received a cent for posters, postcards, books, films etc.
Most artists receive Grants, Foundation money and produce commissioned works of art for an Art Patron the Christos do not accept those. They have never accepted sponsorship of any kind, they never will, because they value their Freedom most of all. Also their never create a work in collaboration with other artist, nor do they accept the ideas of others for the choice of a site for their work. The search for freedom is the reason why Christo escaped from his native country Bulgaria, at age 21, while it was under Communist rule. Christo and Jeanne-Claude will never allow any kind of "strings attached." They refuse all commercial involvement at any price. They have refused a one Million dollars fee for a 60 second commercial on Japanese television, in 1988.
The Christos have lived at the same address since 1964 when they emigrated to the USA Christo’s studio is on the 5th floor there is no elevator this is their one and only home. Christo never had an assistant, he works alone in his studio, he even does his own framing. Because the Christos work with so many hundreds, sometimes thousands of people at the sites of projects, Christo's studio is the only place where he can be by himself, so that he can create the drawings which show their ideas of what a project will look like.
There are 3 things Christo and Jeanne-Claude do not do together:
- they never fly in the same aircraft.
- Jeanne-Claude does not make drawings, she was not trained for that. Christo puts their ideas on paper, he never had an assistant in his studio.
- Christo never had the pleasure of talking to their tax accountant.
HOW TO READ THE ART WORKS: Christo & Jeanne-Claude
The temporary large-scale environmental works (both urban and rural environments) have elements of painting, sculpture, architecture and urban planning.
For instance the Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida,1980-83. could be seen as giant flat paintings (shaped canvases).
The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85. could be seen as a very large sculpture, in a traditional sense of antique folds and draperies, however the bridge, while wrapped,remained a bridge, a piece of architecture. Cars were rolling on it, boats were passing under the wrapped arches, the public was crossing the bridge, walking on the fabric.
The Umbrellas, Japan-USA, 1984-91. has to do with urban planning. 3,100 umbrellas, each two stories high, 59.3 square meters (638.17 square feet), spread on a total span of 49 Km. (30 miles) by a width of 4 Km. ( 2.5 miles) along roads and highways, adjacent to barns, temples, churches, gas stations, schools, habitations and cattle.
Once the work of art has been read for what it really is, then the process preceeding the completion is easily understood.
Nobody discusses a painting before it has been painted.
But architecture and urban planning are always discussed before completion. People discuss the possibility of a new bridge, a new highway, a new airport before those are built.
One of the numerous permits to be obtained from various government agencies, in addition to the 25 ranchers in California and the 459 rice field farmers in Ibaraki, was the 200 pages book from the Ministry of Construction in Tokyo. They worked for one year, together with our engineers, to finally grant us a Permit to build 1340 houses (shaped canvases creating settlements as houses without walls).
Our projects are discussed and argued about, pro and con, before they are realized.
To understand our work one must realize what is inherent to each project
However there is an important diffrence between our works of art and the usual architecture and urban planning, we are our own sponsors and we pay for our works of art with our own money, never accepting any grants nor sponsors.
Selected Bibliography: Lawrence Alloway, Christo (NY: Abrams. 1969); Jacob Baal-Tesheva, Christo: The Reichstag and Urban Projects,Photography by Wolfgang Volz, poem by Cyril Christo, [Christo interview by Masahiko Yanagi] (Munich & New York: Prestel, 1993); Jacob Baal-Tesheva, Christo and Jeanne-Claude (Koln: Taschen, 1995); Bogerd Fine Arts, Christo drawings-multiples [Amsterdam: Bogerd Fine Arts, 1990); David Bourdon, Christo: The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85 (NY: Abrams, 1990); David Bourdon and Gianfranco Gorgano, Christo, Running Fence (NY: Abrams, 1978); Christo: Collages and Drawings (Newcastle/London: Hatton Gallery/Annely Juda Fine Art, 1974); David Bourdon, Otto Hahn, and Pierre Restnay, with commentary by the artist, Christo (Edizioni Apollinaire, c. 1966); Christo, Christo Designs, Collages, Photos (Paris: Centre D'Art Nichlas de Stael, 1987); Christo: Surrounded Islands: Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83 (NY: Abrams, 1986); Christo, Christo (NY: Pantheon Books, 1986); Christo: Project For Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (London: Annely Juda Fine Art, 1977); Christo, John Kaldor Art Project 1990 (Sydney, Australia: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1990); Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Over the River: Project for Arkansas River, State of Colorado (Milano: Electa, 1998); Christo and Jean-Claude, Black and White (London: Annely Juda Fine Art, 2000); Ellen Goheen, Christo: Wrapped Walk Ways (NY: Abrams, 1978); Dominique Laporte, Christo, trans. Abby Pollak (NY: Pantheon 1986); Torsten Lilja and Per Hovdenakk, Christo & Jean-Claude Projects : Works from the Lilja Collection (Art Books International, 1996); Robert McDonald and Sebastian Adler, Christo: Collection on Loan Rothschild Bank (La Jolla, CA: Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, 1981); Werner Spies, The Running Fence Project (NY: Abrams, 1977); Werner Spies and Wolfgang Volz, Christo: Surrounded Islands (Amsterdam, Meulenhoff/landshoff, 1984); Marina Vaizey, Christo (NY: Rizzoli, 1990); Masahiko Yanagi and Susan Astwood with Wolfgang Votz, Christo: The Umbrellas, Joint Project for Japan and USA (Belgium: Guy Pieters Gallery, 1989); Sally Yard, and Sam Hunter, Christo Oceanfront (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975).
Prints: Per Hovdenakk, Christo: Complete Editions 1964-1982. Catalogue Raisonne (NY: New York University Press, 1982); Jorg Schellmann and Josephine Benecke, Christo: Prints and Objects 1963-1987. Introduction by Werner Spies (München/New York: Edition Schelmann/ Abbeville, 1988); Jorg Schellmann and Josephine Benecke, Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Prints and Objects 1963-95: A Catalogue Raisonne (NY: Edition Schellmann, 1995)
Note: Academy Awards and the Oscar logo are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.