When thinking about psychedelic architecture, few come to mind the way Christo does. His large-scale art installations truly represented the limitlessness of imagination.
Christo in Italy.: WOLFGANG VOLZ (2016). COURTESY OF CENTRE POMPIDOU.
Christo worked side by side with his wife, Jeanne-Claude, making his projects even more meaningful. I am always taken when I hear about a couple who share a creative vision and manifest their dream together. They were born on the same day in 1935 and met each other in 1958 when Christo was commissioned to paint Jeanne-Claude’s mother’s portrait.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude looking for a possible site for The Mastaba in February 1982. Photo by Wolfgang Volz © 1982 Christo
Another key aspect was that Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work was entirely self-funded, and they never accepted donations. Instead, they would sell preparatory drawings, collages, scale models, and original lithographs to raise the significant sums required. Working on just one project at a time, they would dedicate all their resources, energy, and finances to make it happen. “I like to be absolutely free, to be totally irrational with no justification for what I like to do,” he once said. “I will not give up one centimeter of my freedom for anything.” (read more here)
Below you can find a few of Christo & Jeanne-Claude´s highlights:
Wall of Oil Barrels/The Iron Curtain, (Paris, 1961–62)
Christo was fascinated by this idea of spatial reconfiguration—a theme that would play out in many future projects. For eight hours on a summer night in 1962, Christo and Jeanne-Claude closed off the rue Visconti (one of the narrowest streets in Paris, boasting such legendary tenants as Delacroix and Balzac) with 89 oil barrels. Given its title, the piece was read by many as a powerful political statement on the Berlin Wall, which had been erected the year before. Christo said in the 2012 interview with the Tate: “We work with space that is not usually used for art. . . . Everything in the world belongs to somebody. There is not one square meter in the world that does belong to somebody. What Jeanne-Claude and I do is borrow that space and create a gentle disturbance for a few days.” The work was a precursor to 2018 The London Mastaba, where 7,506 painted barrels floated on London’s Serpentine Lake. (text from Galerie Magazine)
Wall of Oil Barrels/The Iron Curtain, Rue Visconti, Paris, 1961–62.: JEAN-DOMINIQUE LAJOUX © 1962 CHRISTO
The London Mastaba, Serpentine Lake, London, 2018
The London Mastaba – a summer-long installation – comprises 7,506 painted barrels that have been stacked horizontally on a floating platform made from polyethylene cubes. A steel scaffolding rig holds the red, mauve, and blue barrels in place and is anchored to the lake by 32 six-tonne weights.
A temporary sculpture floating on the Serpentine Lake, the project is the first major public outdoor sculpture in the United Kingdom designed by the artist Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Photography: Wolfgang Volz
Photography: Wolfgang Volz
Scale model of The Mastaba for Abu Dhabi, unbuilt
Photo by Wolfgang Volz © 1979 Christo
At the venerable age of 83, Christo is still stubbornly determined to realise one of his and Jeanne-Claude’s most ambitious projects: a 150-metre-high mastaba in the desert in Abu Dhabi.
The pair began scouting potential locations back in 1977 and if built, it would be the largest sculpture in the world. It would require 410,000 barrels, which Christo plans to have painted in eight different colours to form a shimmering mosaic reminiscent of those found in Islamic architecture.
It would be Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s only permanent piece of work. (text from Dezeen)
Big Air Package, Oberhausen, Germany, 2010-13
Big Air Package was the largest ever inflated envelope without a skeleton. Illuminated through the skylights of the Gasometer, the work of art was a cathedral of air, creating a diffused light throughout the interior, muffling the usual sounds and thus generating an atmosphere of silence and tranquility. It was made from 20,350 square meters (219,000 square feet) of semitransparent polyester fabric and 4,500 meters (14,800 feet) of polypropylene rope. (text and pictures from here)
Wrapped Coast—One Million Square Feet, Little Bay (Sydney, Australia, 1968–69)
At age 34, Christo and Jeanne-Claude traveled to Australia to realize what would be their first major environmental project. Commissioned by Kaldor Public Art Projects, they wrapped a mile and a half of rugged coast and cliffs up along the coast of Little Bay, in southeast Sydney—an extraordinarily radical idea at the time. When swathed in a loosely synthetic fabric and fastened with rope across the natural forms, the area took on a surreal, otherworldly appearance. It took 17,000 hours of manpower over a period of four weeks and remained wrapped for ten weeks. “For this project, no drawing could simulate it,” Christo said in an interview with Kaldor Public Art Projects in 2012. “Our project was like life: Fragile, something we don’t have forever. . . . From the waterline, it was absolutely unbelievable. . . . You see the proportion. You can see the unexpected change of forms the fabric took with the wind. This is something we never ever expected, and that came from the incredible wind.” (text from Galerie Magazine)
: COURTESY OF KALDOR PUBLIC ART PROJECTS
Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1983
Using 603,870 square metres of luminous pink fabric selected to compliment the shallow waters and Miami skies, the artists surrounded a series of islands in Biscayne Bay.
Having obtained permission from government agencies, they created floating rafts of fabric attached to octagonal, pink-painted booms that were towed into place, unfurled and anchored in place.
For the two weeks that Surrounded Islands were on display 120 people in inflatable boats monitored the work. When it was removed the location was in better condition than when they started, thanks to the team removing some 40 tons of rubbish that had washed up on the islands or was floating around it. (text from Dezeen)
Photo by Wolfgang Volz © 1983 Christo
Valley Curtain, Rifle, Colorado, 1972
For 28 months Christo and Jeanne-Claude worked with designers, builders, and students to create a partition of orange fabric hung between two mountains in Colorado, in a piece called Valley Curtain.
It was 381 metres long and suspended at a height of 111 metres. Keeping the curtain in place necessitated 417 metres of cable, weighing 61 tons and anchored to 864 tons of concrete foundations.
The last ropes were secured at 11 am on 10 August 1972, and the billowing screen of woven nylon remained in situ for 28 hours until high winds forced it to be taken down. (text from Dezeen)
The Floating Piers (Italy’s Lake Iseo, 2014–16)
For 16 days in 2016, visitors were given the chance to walk on water. Composed of 226,000 high-density polyethylene cubes, the saffron-hued walkway that spanned Sulzano on the lake’s eastern edge to the island of Monte Isola cost roughly $17 million to construct. Like all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects, The Floating Piers was free and open to the public.
L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris) Place de l’Étoile–Charles de Gaulle
L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, a temporary artwork for Paris, was on view for 16 days from Saturday, September 18 to Sunday, October 3, 2021. The Arc de Triomphe was wrapped in 25,000 square meters of recyclable polypropylene fabric in silvery blue and with 3,000 meters of red rope.
In 1961, three years after they met in Paris, Christo and Jeanne-Claude began creating works of art in public spaces. One of their projects was to wrap a public building. When he arrived in Paris, Christo rented a small room near the Arc de Triomphe and had been attracted by the monument ever since. In 1962, he made a photo montage of the Arc de Triomphe wrapped, seen from the Avenue Foch, and, in 1988, a collage. Sixty years later, the project was finally concretized. (text from Galerie Magazine)
A study for Christo’s L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris) Place de l’Étoile—Charles de Gaulle (2019).: ANDRÉ GROSSMANN. COURTESY OF THE ARTIST.
Photo by Benjamin Loyseau
This was Christo´s final artwork. He sadly died amid its construction on May 31, 2020, of natural causes.