Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jeanne-Claude Dies at Age 74

Jeanne-Claude's flaming red hair may have been her trademark, but she was known for her collaboration with her husband, Christo, on dozens of controversial environmental arts projects around the globe. Jeanne-Claude died yesterday at the age of 74 from complications of a of a brain aneurysm.

The couple was reportedly born on the same day, and during the same hour — only to meet in Paris in 1958 and spending their life together creating temporary public arts projects. When they met we was already wrapping small objects. Three years later, they collaborated on their first work, a temporary installation on the docks in Cologne, Germany, that consisted of oil drums and rolls of industrial paper wrapped in tarpaulin.

Some of their most noted collaboration include the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Reichstag in Berlin and the installation of 7,503 vinyl gates with saffron-colored nylon panels in Central Park,

To avoid confusing dealers and the public, and to establish an artistic brand, they used only Christo’s name. In 1994 they retroactively applied the joint name “Christo and Jeanne-Claude” to all outdoor works and large-scale temporary indoor installations. Other indoor work was credited to Christo alone.

Their working methods, as described on their Web site, remained constant throughout the years. After jointly conceiving of a project, Christo made drawings, scale models and other preparatory works whose sale financed the project. Working with paid assistants, they did the on-site work: wrapping buildings, trees, walls or bridges; erecting umbrellas (“The Umbrellas,” 1991); spreading pink fabric around islands in Biscayne Bay near Miami (“Surrounded Islands,” 1983).

“We want to create works of art of joy and beauty, which we will build because we believe it will be beautiful,” Jeanne-Claude said in a 2002 interview. “The only way to see it is to build it. Like every artist, every true artist, we create them for us.”

Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon was born on June 13, 1935, in Casablanca, where her father, an officer in the French military, was stationed. After attending schools in France and Switzerland, she earned a baccalaureate in Latin and philosophy in 1952 from the University of Tunis.

Jeanne-Claude and Christo moved to New York in 1964 and embarked on more daring projects, grander in scale and more theatrical in conception. In the late 1960s, they wrapped the Kunsthalle in Bern, one of many buildings to come. At the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany, in 1968, they erected, with the assistance of two giant cranes, an inflated cylindrical fabric “package,” in appearance a bit like a stretched-out Michelin Man that stood nearly 280 feet tall.

The collaborations became communal events, during construction and after. Enormous numbers of viewers were attracted to “The Umbrellas,” installed simultaneously in Ibaraki, Japan, and at the Tejon Ranch in Southern California in 1991. “The Gates,” a series of flapping bannerlike panels installed in Central Park in 2005, also attracted big crowds during the two weeks that the work lasted, with each visitor handed a small sample of the saffron fabric.

Before Jeanne-Claude’s death, she and Christo were at work on two projects: “Over the River,” a series of fabric panels to be suspended over the Arkansas River in Colorado, and “The Mastaba,” a stack of 410,000 oil barrels configured as a mastaba, or truncated rectangular pyramid, envisioned for the United Arab Emirates.
Like all of their projects, these were intended to be temporary, a quality at the heart of the artistic enterprise. Whether executed in oil drum or brightly colored fabric, the art of her and her husband, Jeanne-Claude said, expressed “ the quality of love and tenderness that we human beings have for what does not last.”

Most of the information in this article came from the New York Times

(c) 2009 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

1 comment:

Gramjen said...

This is a sad event that will greatly effect the artistic community. Talented environmental artists such as she could have done some amazing things with vinyl gates, water bottles and solar energy products.