Life is temporary, as was her art.
November 19, 2009 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Jeanne-Claude, Christo's partner, is dead at 74. Christo will of course continue their work.

Hearing them speak about their upcoming Arkansas River project in Colorado last year was a night I won't forget. The determination that Jeanne-Claude and Christo bring to their projects, which often take decades to come to fruition, was very moving.
posted by kozad (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by Drasher at 3:19 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by WPW at 3:19 PM on November 19, 2009

n n n n n n n n n n n
posted by cazoo at 3:21 PM on November 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

posted by quazichimp at 3:22 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by idiopath at 3:22 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:23 PM on November 19, 2009

or rather; ☂
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:24 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

[dot wrapped in canvas and twine]
posted by Sys Rq at 3:24 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Whether you like their work or not you do have to acknowledge their determination in getting these projects built. There are still pictures of "The Wall" some places up in Marin.
posted by GuyZero at 3:25 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by fire&wings at 3:27 PM on November 19, 2009

Nicole Richie gets more attention than them. What's happened to our world?

posted by davebush at 3:31 PM on November 19, 2009


It's too bad that many people give credit for the art only to Christo when they have repeatedly stated that all their work is a duet.
posted by grouse at 3:32 PM on November 19, 2009

Oh, this saddens me. The New Yorker profile of Christo and Jean-Claude a couple of years ago was inspirational to me. I have yet to see any of their works in real life, but I have admired his vision for a long time now.

That being said, this may be my favorite New Yorker cartoon, ever.
posted by hippybear at 3:32 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by sueinnyc at 3:33 PM on November 19, 2009

One of my favorite elements of the movie "How To Draw A Bunny" was the interviews with Jeanne-Claude and Christo. While I had wow'd at their huge installations and their over the top ideas, I had no idea what they were like as people.

One of the better stories out of the numerous delightful anecdotes in that movie was their tale of the time that Ray Johnson had pestered them for a signed work, and eventually they gave in and sent him a package in the mail, inside the package was a note "the sculpture was the package you just ruined when you opened it".
posted by idiopath at 3:38 PM on November 19, 2009 [9 favorites]

Whether you like their work or not you do have to acknowledge their determination in getting these projects built.

I don't and I do.

I also want to go in the exact same way at the age of 107.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:38 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by bearwife at 3:38 PM on November 19, 2009

I worked for "The Gates" in NYC in 2005, as the manager of one of their merchandise booths. It always stuck in my memory that the artists were adamant in making it clear that they received no profit from what became a huge tourist spectacle. They demanded that anywhere merch was sold (the predictably overpriced shirts, books, keychains, etc.), there be signage reminding people that all the proceeds went to the Central Park Conservancy. And even so, I remember at least one time when all the merch booths were temporarily shut down after Christo and Jeanne-Claude had done a drive-through and decided that the signage wasn't obvious enough.

And it really must not have been. I can't tell you how many people still commented to me as they passed my booth that the project was obviously just a huge cash-in, a way for the artists to make money off tourists. A lot of people thought the gates were ugly, or invasive, or a foolish waste of effort, and dealing with that kind of criticism is hard enough without also having to be seen as greedy opportunists.

The two were an inseparable pair, preferring to be presented and spoken to as a single unit. I can't bear to think how they must have planned for and dreaded this day.
posted by hermitosis at 3:40 PM on November 19, 2009 [13 favorites]

posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:42 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by scody at 3:49 PM on November 19, 2009

A lot of people thought the gates were ugly

That's messed up. It much suck not to be able to see the coolness or beauty of something like this. Especially since it was such a short installation.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:56 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I still have a little piece of the Gates, which were absolutely stunning (as is all of their work). This is a great loss.

posted by Lutoslawski at 4:11 PM on November 19, 2009

The Gates was amazing and a joy to walk through while I was going to college at Hunter. Thank you Jean-Claude.
posted by wcfields at 4:11 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by kathrineg at 4:23 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by everichon at 4:25 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by Smart Dalek at 4:27 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

My sister worked on erecting The Gates, and although she did not self-identify as an artist at that time, after working her butt off on the project she came away with a tremendous respect for the artists, and has been making art (albeit non-traditional) since. On the other hand, I had self-identified as an artist for a long time, and felt either neutral or slightly negative about Christo and Jean-Claude until I heard my sister's stories of how well they treated her. Their attitude seemed to be that every one of the worker bees helping on this monumental undertaking had creative capital in the project, and by extension it was their piece too. Jean-Claude and Christo made it clear, not just through words but through action that The Gates belonged to everyone.


Much respect to one half of such an inspiring creative partnership.
posted by stagewhisper at 4:40 PM on November 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

I am one of those who didn't "get" the artistic value of the Gates.

But as a shared experience and communal event, it was really awe-inspiringly successful. I felt happily stunned that there were people this dedicated to giving a joyous and beautiful gift to millions of people.

posted by lalex at 5:13 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by bigmusic at 5:24 PM on November 19, 2009

I felt happily stunned that there were people this dedicated to giving a joyous and beautiful gift to millions of people.

Ah, then maybe you did get the artistic value of the Gates, after all...?
posted by scody at 5:26 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

I lived in NYC when the Gates went up. I was highly skeptical -- assumed it would be the artistic equivalent of the Pottery Barn. I went and was floored.

posted by HeroZero at 5:27 PM on November 19, 2009

So sad to hear this. I've always admired her collaborative works with Christo.
posted by Heretic at 5:39 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by brevator at 5:49 PM on November 19, 2009


I interned at the Maysles once and heard that she could be quite a tough bitch. But then, she'd have to be, right?
posted by fungible at 6:02 PM on November 19, 2009

Both of them share my birthday, and she contributed so much more than that other pair born on June 13th, the Olsen twins.
posted by thewittyname at 6:11 PM on November 19, 2009


It's a dot swathed in fabric, all the loose ends flowing in the breeze.
posted by Elsa at 6:31 PM on November 19, 2009

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been a back-burner presence in my life for nearly it's entire existance. My mother has run the public art program for three major US cities, and made me hyper aware of public art as a result. She showed me photos of the wrapped Reichstag. When the yellow umbrellas were in California, my father and I drove out to the highway and had a picnic under one. They own a piece of both a blue and yellow umbrella. I lived in New York when the Gates were up, and they came to New York to see them.

On their visit, we were walking through the park to admire the Gates. I'd been watching them go up for a while and it was truly awesome to see them up. Even more when they were dotting the newly snowy landscape. My dad was making our stroll quite slow, as he stopped every 5 feet to frame the perfect shot. It was as I was walking around arm in arm with my mom, waiting for my dad that I saw a car go by. What caught my eye about the car was the shock of red hair in the back passenger seat. "MOM!" I said as I jabbed her in the side,"That's Jeanne-Claude in the car!" "Where?" she yelled, then spotted it. The couple was driving around the park trying to discreetly see the public's reaction, a noble attempt that my mother ruined by yelling, "We love you!" while blowing them kisses.

This is like a hero dying. So sad.
posted by piratebowling at 6:41 PM on November 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


I get a glint in my eye just describing their work to people. So ridiculously strange and interesting. I've been waiting for their "Over the River" project to come together so I can make a pilgrimage to it. I really hope it's still in the works.
posted by haveanicesummer at 6:45 PM on November 19, 2009

In the documentary about the construction of the Running Fence, there's a nice moment when two of the local farmers are standing next to the completed work, trying to puzzle out their own feelings about it, and one of them blurts out: "I think I'll sleep out here tonight, next to the fence. It's so nice..."
posted by stammer at 7:25 PM on November 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

This is sad of course, but if anyone's was, this was a life well lived. I have never seen any of their works, although I have always wanted to, both to see the art, and also to see peoples' reactions to it. There is a box set of DVDs "5 Films About Christo & Jeanne-Claude" by the Maysles brothers, which is a terrific introduction to their work (and which also combines 2 of my favourite artists).
posted by carter at 7:31 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by BillBishop at 7:36 PM on November 19, 2009

I really liked their Pink Islands.
posted by vronsky at 8:05 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by Scoo at 8:15 PM on November 19, 2009

Public art is such a minefield for those who make it. Given the vast quantities of money and miles of red tape to cut through required in order to produce a work, very, very few people have the stamina necessary to see a single project through, let alone dozens. (This is, of course, to say nothing of what happens after the work is made, when, rightly enough, I guess, everybody and their grandmother gets to weigh in on the project's merits or lack-thereof). It's such an ordeal that I reserve a modicum of respect for the people who oversee even the blandest "abstract" steel sculpture that gets put up in whatever corporate plaza. I could never do it myself, so, to an extent, I feel compelled to just shut up and admire whichever-artist's chutzpah.

Chutzpah can be pretty grating, though. For reasons that should be clear enough, the sphere of public art constitutes an environment that generally favors self-promoting bags-of-dicks willing to compromise any principle, at any juncture in order to preserve funding, permits, or whatever else. Maybe C&JC were like that in person, but it doesn't appear that way from the outside (and previous comments in this thread seem to bear this out). They have always been (shockingly) clear in term of both their vision as artists and of the (usually financial) compromises that they've had to make in order to see that vision through to completion.

Given, further, that C&JC have, for more than fifty years, insisted upon being viewed as equals in the creative process, even when it would likely have been expedient to cast Jeanne-Claude in the "helping" role (and she was and continues to be cast this way by third parties), I feel the need to register my sense of loss, such as it is, even though I've yet to see one of their works firsthand.

I typically find it cloying, but, for real:
posted by wreckingball at 8:24 PM on November 19, 2009

One function of art is to help us see familiar things differently.
Public art, doubly so.

I've observed their work for years, going back at least to the wrapped coastline in Australia, and honestly never appreciated what they were about. Then I saw the wrapped Reichstag and for some reason, with that particular work, I got it. Can't say exactly why. I think it's something to do with fresh snow on bare trees.

Thanks to Christo and Jean-Claude for the fresh look.

posted by Herodios at 9:20 PM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

One more thing.

Whenever I visit my relatives in Southern Ohio, I pass a housing development with a sign that reads "Christo Homes". I've never driven back there to look, but naturally I always visualize row after row of houses all wrapped in plastic.
posted by Herodios at 9:24 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by speug at 9:33 PM on November 19, 2009

"fresh snow on bare trees."

exactly :)
posted by vronsky at 9:44 PM on November 19, 2009

Also wanted to shout out Calvin Tomkins's New Yorker article on Christo/Jeanne-Claude-- shame it's paywalled, cos it's a fascinating read. I started it thinking 'Oh Christo, that guy who wraps things and does umbrellas' and came away thinking 'wow these guys have an amazing vision.' It's not the spectacles they present that I admire, so much as their entire approach, to art, commerce, and long term project planning. Anyway it's nice to be surprised once in a while. R.I.P. J-C
posted by jcruelty at 10:56 PM on November 19, 2009

posted by Morrigan at 5:14 AM on November 20, 2009

my very first thought was of the coffin or her body somehow wrapped in bright orange plastic, but not tightly, just like a huge oversized ball of crumpled paper with her in the middle.

i don't mean that disrespectfully at all.

i am really quite sad that i was unable to get to the Gates. all the pics i've seen have been beautiful.
posted by sio42 at 5:48 AM on November 20, 2009

posted by lapolla at 7:04 AM on November 20, 2009

So sad.

I was living in New York when The Gates were there. The scale of it, in which this massive, massive overlay was placed in an already overwhelming and beautiful work of art (Central Park itself), and yet there were so many beautiful vignettes and small moments within the way they were placed - it made you evaluate and acknowledge the vastness of the park at the same time as it forced you to focus in. And coming in in late winter when the park and the city is a million shades of cold gray, the saffron color was audacious, glorious, breathtaking.

AND to have this gargantuan thing, and realize that it had been put together simply for its own sake - for beauty. For perception. And how much effort and money went it to providing us with this epic poem, and how much easier (although still INSANELY hard!) it would have been to produce if they had simply agreed to stamp each gate with, "brought to you by Chips Ahoy cookies", or whatever, and how that made it that much more precious. And the whole thing was only, what, two weeks long? My goodness.

The first time we went (my wife and I went back 5 or 6 times) we spent a good two hours tramping around, making friends with this giant thing, and we were both really in love with it. We were standing with a bunch of other people waiting to cross that chunk of 65th(?) St that runs through the middle of the park when suddenly my wife started gasping and clapping and hopping up and down. Like PirateBowling she had seen that shock of hair in the back seat of a car and, sure enough, it was Christo and Jeanne-Claude take a spin through the park, watching people experience it.

As people realized it was them they all started sort of clapping cheering, and said, "Bravo!" and stuff like that as the car drove by, slowly. I called to them, "Thank you so much!", and they smiled sweetly, and almost shyly, at me and everyone else, and waved back.

posted by dirtdirt at 7:16 AM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I met them, very briefly, in Charleston in the early 90s. I had gone to see a friend, one of my former art professors, who played in a jazz band. When the band finished, we sat down for a beer and he said offhandedly, "Oh by the way, Christo and Jeanne-Claude are going to meet us for a drink." I was totally overawed and quiet (and trying to keep my small son from escaping and causing total mayhem as was his wont) and they were lovely to me, very polite and charming and sweet to the rambunctious toddler in their midst. Their work has always blown me away and I'm so sorry to hear this.

posted by mygothlaundry at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2009

posted by wowbobwow at 9:20 AM on November 20, 2009

i came across the Wrapped Reichstag back when i was in undergrad, working on a studio project involving installations. i just remember being incredibly effected by the idea and i often come back to it over time for inspiration.

posted by cristinacristinacristina at 9:22 AM on November 20, 2009

posted by Thorzdad at 1:16 PM on November 20, 2009

posted by klausness at 5:10 AM on November 21, 2009

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