Christo, Artist Known for Large, Colorful Works, Dies

01 June 2020

Christo, the artist known for large, temporary public arts projects, died Sunday at his home in New York. He was 84 years old.

His death was announced on Twitter and on the artist's website. No cause was given.

He worked along with his wife Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009. The two were famous for their colorful art projects that disappeared soon after they were built. They often used fabric to wrap, or cover, large structures.

In 2005, Christo and Jeanne-Claude placed more than 7,500 saffron-colored gates in New York City's Central Park. Ten years earlier, they wrapped the Reichstag Building in Berlin in metal-looking fabric.

FILE - Horse drawn carriages and "The Gates" are shown in Central Park Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2005, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

In 1991, their Umbrellas project placed over 1,300 blue umbrellas in Japan and more than 1,700 in Southern California. The project cost $26 million.

The statement announcing Christo's death said the artist's next project is set to appear in September in Paris. It is called L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped. Also in Paris, a show about Christo and Jeanne-Claude's work is planned later this year at the Centre Georges 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," the statement continued.

The artist's full name was Christo Vladimirov Javacheff. He was born in Bulgaria in 1935. He studied art throughout Europe before meeting his wife, Jeanne-Claude, in Paris. They were both born on the same date in 1935 – June 13. The two were partners in life and in art.

Before they met, Christo was already wrapping smaller items, like cars. After he met Jeanne-Claude, the two began wrapping large, important structures, including the Pont Neuf in Paris, the Kunsthalle in Bern, Switzerland, and a Roman wall in Italy.

Although they worked together, all the work was credited to Christo until 1994, when they announced Jeanne-Claude's partnership.

The two artists moved to New York in 1964, where they later bought a building in the SoHo neighborhood. It was their home for the rest of their lives.

In 1968, they gained fame for three works of art: Wrapped Fountain; Wrapped Medieval Tower; and Wrapped Kunsthalle. The next year brought Wrapped Coast, along the Australian coastline, and the wrapping of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 at age 74. After her death, Christo said she was argumentative, very critical and never stopped asking questions. He said he missed all of that very much.

Their works of art required extraordinary efforts. Over 600 workers were involved in putting up The Gates in New York City. It took more than 300 workers to take it down.

More than 5 million people saw the artwork.

In a 2018 interview with The Art Newspaper, Christo spoke about his ideas for wrapping as art.

"...all our wrapped projects are not solid buildings; they are moving with the wind, they are breathing," he said.

The two paid for their artworks by selling drawings.

"I like to be absolutely free," Christo said. "I will not give up one centimeter of my freedom for anything."

I'm Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words In This Story

fabric – n. cloth

saffron - n. a red-colored spice that is very rare

gate - n. an outdoor barrier that can be opened

umbrella – n. a device held over one's head to protect from rain

realize - v. to understand or to know

globe – n. the earth

drawings - artworks made on paper with colored pencils