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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Christo

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Christo: June 13,1935-****...Bulgaria / United States

"The worst thing that can happen to any artist is that no one cares about his work."
~Christo

Christo is recognized as the great wrapper. Notice it is wrap; like I wrap a package and not rap; I rap like Snoop Dogg. Christo’s father, Vladimir Javacheff, was a scientist and his mother, Tsveta, was a secretary at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria. He loved to visit the Academy and many saw the talent with in the young boy. He began his academic study of art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia, traveling on to Prague, Czechoslovakia, and then the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts before settling down in Paris, France. He frequented the museums and loved the work of Jackson Pollock, Jean Tinguely, and Jean Dubuffet. After escaping the communist rule, he was no longer a citizen and became a man without a country. Later, he would also drop his last name and only use one name. It was also in Paris where he picked up wrapping. It started with experiments with objects, canvas, rope and glue. He exhibited his first wrapped work in 1961, Stacked Oil Drums, when he stacked some large oil drums and wrapped them in a tarp and tied it together with rope.

Jeanne-Claude…June 13,1935-Nov.18 2009…Morocco/United States

Jeanne-Claude was also born on June 13,1935 in Morocco. They had met in 1958 while Christo was working on a commissioned painting of her mother. Jeanne-Claude was ingaged and Christo had is eye on her step-sister Joyce. Now here is where the story gets interesting: After the wedding Jeanne-Claude gets pregnant, by Christo. So after the honeymoon, her leaves her husband for Christo. Their son, Cyril, was born May 11, 1960. Despite her parents disapproval of the whole thing, they were married on November 28, 1962. Christo began working with Jeanne-Claude as his artistic equal in 1961 and they moved to New York in 1964. "When we met, I was not an artist. I became an artist only for love of Christo. If he had been a dentist, I would have become a dentist." She died as a result of complications due to a ruptured brain aneurysm at the age of seventy-four.

The focus of their work began to focus on environments in 1968. "For me, the real world involves everything: risk, danger, beauty, energy." The wrappings were left pure, no glue was used to stiffen the material. He alters the natural world with his art. They did several projects including wrappings of trees, interior spaces, monuments, coastal stretches, surrounding islands, and even the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. It is a little ironic when the building that houses art becomes a work of art beyond its architectural style. All of the work is temporary and they do get hassled, ironically, by environmentalists who think they are destroying nature. Although there are probably some really confused deer or birds that love around there projects, they are only up for a few days and Christo and Jeanne-Claude go to great lengths to leave the world as they found it and often make it better. The best example of this is the Surrounded Islands near Miami, Florida where they removed over forty tons of garbage from the eleven islands before they worked on the project.

Perhaps their best known work was the over two million square feet fabric fence, Running Fence. This works was not about wrapping anything at all, a lot of their work does not. The one thing that truly links all their art is their use of fabric, cloth, and textiles to create the artworks. Shortly after becoming United States citizens, Christo and Jeanne-Claude began to plan for Running Fence (it took about four years to get the project completed). This artwork ran through Sonoma and Marin Counties in California. The eighteen foot high nylon fabric stretched across steel cables to hang on the 2050 steel posts that spanned twenty-four and a half miles. It was even anchored to hover over the Pacific Ocean for a short distance. It took many convincing conversations with farmers and local officials, the work of nine lawyers, project bureaucracy, and a $60,000 fine for the lack of permission to hover over the water. This work was up for a week starting on September 10, 1976. Because the work is only up for a matter of days, art lovers must have some sense of urgency in seeing the projects up in their environment.

Running Fence
1976. nylon fabric, steel posts, & steel cables. 18 feet X 24 miles. California.

In the 1990’s the couple have been working as an artistic team. Their last huge American project was unveiled on February 12, 2005, when The Gates was created at Central Park in New York. How long did it take to plan, create, and set up those 7,503 saffron gates that covered twenty-three miles of path? For thirteen years they planned for the project and they work thirteen hours a day, seven days a week, and they do not take vacations, although, it was an idea that sparked twenty-six years before its creation. All this for a sixteen day art display. And who paid for all that time and materials? Uniquely, Christo and Jeanne-Claude paid the estimated twenty-one million dollars for their artwork to be realized. They do not work under sponsors and the public authorities who often want to control their work, but from donations and from the sale of sketches. Christo believes in the art as an experience, "It's not necessary to talk. You spend time, you experience the project." In 1988 they were offered a million dollars to help produce a work that would be on a sixty second Japanese television commercial; they refused. It also does not hurt that in the 1970s, it was discovered that Christo was a direct descendent of Friedrich Fischer, a German inverter who developed an advanced ball-barring design and opened factories in Germany and Bulgaria. This made Christo a multimillionaire almost overnight. But he and his wife have chosen to live modestly and put their income to work in the form of investments and charitable organizations. Christo is the primary designer and artist and Jeanne-Claude works on the public relations and planning of the works. They currently live and work out of New York. They are currently working on a project called Over the River, in Canon City, Colorado where nearly seven miles of reflective fabric will be placed over the Arkansas River in 2011. Rafters will be able to ride the river under this artwork.

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063