Environmental artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, known as Christo, passed away of natural causes on May 31, 2020, at his home in New York City. He was 84. Christo’s death was announced by his office on Facebook.
Along with his late wife and lifelong collaborator Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, who died in 2009, Bulgarian-born Christo created artwork transcending the bounds of painting, sculpture and architecture to create outdoor works and temporary large indoor installations.
Some of their best known work included Wrapped Coast, Little Bay in Sydney, Australia (1968–69), Valley Curtain in Colorado (1970–72), Running Fence in California (1972–76), Surrounded Islands in Miami (1980–83), The Pont Neuf Wrapped in Paris (1975–85), The Umbrellas in Japan and California (1984–91), Wrapped Reichstag in Berlin (1972–95), The Gates in New York’s Central Park (1979–2005), The Floating Piers at Italy’s Lake Iseo (2014–16), and The London Mastaba on London’s Serpentine Lake (2016–18).
“Christo lived his life to the fullest, not only dreaming up what seemed impossible but realizing it,” Christo’s 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.”
At the time of his death, Christo was actively working on his next project, the wrapping of Paris’ L’Arc de Triomphe. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project, originally scheduled for the fall 2020, had been recently postponed by a year.
“Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always made clear that their artworks in progress be continued after their deaths. Per Christo’s wishes, ‘L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped’ in Paris, France, is still on track for September 18 – October 3, 2021,” his office said Sunday.
Christo was born on June 13, 1935 in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. He left Bulgaria in 1957, first to Prague, Czechoslovakia, and then escaped to Vienna, Austria, then moved to Geneva, Switzerland. In 1958, Christo went to Paris, where he met Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon.
“I am an artist who is totally irrational, irresponsible, completely free,” Christo said in a recent CNN interview, in which he spoke of living under lockdown at in the SoHo building he and his late wife had owned since 1956, which also housed their studio.
“I’m frightened, I don’t like to go to the hospital, I don’t like to go anywhere, because this invisible enemy can come anytime. I’m prisoner of Howard Street, put it that way,” Christo said, adding that he enjoyed spending time on the roof of the building, looking at New York City, the city he loved.
“The city is something unbelievable. The air is very clean, blue skies, I think it’s very surreal actually,” he said. (Watch the segment, which features Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s most famous works, below).
A major exhibition about the duo’s work and time in Paris will be on display at the Centre Georges Pompidou from July 1–October 19, 2020.
“In a 1958 letter Christo wrote, ‘Beauty, science and art will always triumph.’ We hold those words closely today,” his office said.
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