André Grossmann/© 2018 Christo
Over the last half-century, few artists have created works more monumental than Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The duo met after Christo arrived in Paris from Bulgaria in the 1950s, and spent the ensuing decades creating installations that blur the line between artwork and setting. Examples include 1968–69’s Wrapped Coast, in which they unfurled synthetic material over 1.5 miles of Australian seashore, and 2005’s The Gates, which saw them erect 7,503 saffron-hued fabric panels in New York’s Central Park.
This year, visitors to Paris will be able to see both the artists’ early works and Christo’s latest (only his second since Jeanne-Claude’s 2009 death). Starting March 18, the Centre Pompidou looks at their Parisian beginnings, from 1958 to 1964, a period during which the two met and married and which saw Christo forsake painting in favor of their collaborative installations. Included in the exhibition are collections of Wrapped Oil Barrels, dating as far back as 1958, and a painting, Wrapped Portrait of Jeanne-Claude, from 1963. The show also tells the story of their first major project in Paris, The Pont-Neuf Wrapped, which they completed in 1985 after nearly a decade of negotiations with the city.
“Each of the projects is like a journey through my life,” Christo says. “I’m very happy that they are adding examples of many early works that have never been shown in an exhibition.”
The show also functions as a preview for Christo’s next major work. With the help of a skilled team that includes mountain climbers and engineers, the artist will wrap the Arc de Triomphe in nearly 270,000 square feet of silvery blue recyclable polypropylene fabric and more than four miles of red rope. The piece, which Christo is funding with the proceeds from the sales of his sketches, will be on view for just two weeks (September 19–October 4), but it’s the realization of a dream he has had since he caught a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe from his humble chambre de bonne apartment nearby in 1958. The exhibit and the new project combine to serve as fitting Parisian bookends to Christo’s life and career. As he says of the City of Light: “It’s the only place I will do two projects.”