Christo, known for his massive, ephemeral public arts projects, died Sunday at his home in New York. He was 84.
His death was announced on Twitter and the artist’s web page. No cause of death was given.
Along with late wife Jeanne-Claude, the artists’ careers were defined by their ambitious art projects that quickly disappeared soon after they were erected.
In 2005, he installed more than 7,500 vinyl gates in New York’s Central Park and wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in fabric with an aluminum sheen in 1995. Their self-financed $26-million “Umbrellas” project erected 1,340 blue umbrellas installed in Japan and 1,760 blue umbrellas in Southern California in 1991.
The statement said the artist’s next project, “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped,” is slated to appear in September in Paris as planned. An exhibition about Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work is also scheduled to run from July through October at the Centre Pompidou.
“Christo lived his life to the fullest, not only dreaming up what seemed impossible but realizing it,” his office said in a statement. “Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s artwork brought people together in shared experiences across the globe, and their work lives on in our hearts and memories.”
Born in Bulgaria in 1935, Christo Vladimirov Javacheff studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Sofia before moving to Prague, Czech Republic, in 1957, then Vienna, then Geneva. It was in Paris in 1958 where he met Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, who would become his partner in life and art.
Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 at age 74 from complications of a brain aneurysm.
Christo, the Bulgarian-born conceptual artist who turned to epic-scale environmental works in the late 1960s, stringing a giant curtain across a mountain pass in Colorado, wrapping the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Reichstag in Berlin and zigzagging thousands of saffron-curtained gates throughout Central Park, died on Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 84.
His death was announced on his official Facebook page. No cause was specified.
Christo — he used only his first name — was an artistic Pied Piper. His grand projects, often decades in the making and all of them temporary, required the cooperation of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of landowners, government officials, judges, environmental groups, local residents, engineers and workers, many of whom had little interest in art and a deep reluctance to see their lives and their surroundings disrupted by an eccentric visionary speaking in only semi-comprehensible English.
Again and again, Christo prevailed, through persistence, charm and a childlike belief that eventually everyone would see things the way he did.
At his side, throughout, was his wife, Jeanne-Claude, who, like her husband, used only her first name. In the mid-1990s she began sharing equal billing with him on all their projects, formalizing what the couple insisted had been their practice all along. She died in 2009.
“The Gates,” Christo’s Central Park project, typified his approach. Like nearly all his projects, it began with a drawing, executed in 1979. Then came the seemingly eternal round of lobbying public officials, filing forms, waiting for environmental impact studies, speaking at hearings, rallying support. All of this, Christo insisted, was part of the art work.
“For me esthetics is everything involved in the process — the workers, the politics, the negotiations, the construction difficulty, the dealings with hundreds of people,” he told The New York Times in 1972. “The whole process becomes an esthetic — that’s what I’m interested in, discovering the process. I put myself in dialogue with other people.”
When New York’s parks commissioner at the time, Gordon J. Davis, rejected “The Gates” in 1981, setting forth his reasons in a book-length document, Christo simply incorporated the rebuff into the project. “I find it very inspiring in a way that is like abstract poetry,” he told the College Art Association. “He adds a dimension to the work, no matter what he thinks.”
Given the go-ahead by the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, “The Gates” was finally installed in February 2005. For two weeks, thousands of strollers wandering 23 miles of the park’s pathways passed underneath 7,503 steel frames supporting free-hanging panels of saffron-colored fabric. It was a stunning success.