Wrapped Arc de Triomphe
Wrapped Arc de Triomphe (Concept drawing)
Wrapped Reichstag
Wrapped Reichstag
Wrapped Beetle
Wrapped Beetle
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Paris. New York. Crossing Borders

In the exhibition, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Paris. New York. Crossing Borders, at the Kunstpalast Museum, seventy works trace the historical development of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art from the mid-1950s to 2020.

Spread out through ten thematic rooms, the exhibition introduces the couple’s key projects, ranging from The Iron Curtain in Paris in 1962 to the Mastaba project for Abu Dhabi, which has not been realised yet.

The show starts with Christo’s early artistic oeuvre and his artistic works created in Paris. This was where Christo, a refugee from his native country, encountered the works of various international colleagues. He had close connections with several artists, especially with the artistic movement Les Nouveaux Réalistes.

In 1958, Christo became acquainted with Jeanne-Claude while carrying out a portrait commission for her family. They soon became lovers, artistic collaborators and life partners. They had one son together.

“When Christo and Jeanne-Claude developed their first works, Paris was still the centre of the international avant-garde,” emphasises Kay Heymer, curator of the exhibition. “They could not have found a better place to form their own artistic language. Showing selected examples of their early works alongside their sources of inspiration and works by fellow artists, we illustrate how the process of development from their early days to their complete independence played out.”

From the late 1950s, Christo fostered ties with galleries and collectors in the Rhineland. Christo’s first solo exhibition was shown at Galerie Haro Lauhus in Cologne in 1961. In 1963, he presented Wrapped Car (Volkswagen) and, a year later, the group of works Store Fronts at Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf.

The exhibition presents Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s most important realised projects, among them Wrapped Coast in Australia (1968/69), Surrounded Islands (1983) in Miami/Florida, the Pont Neuf Wrapped in Paris (1985), the Umbrellas (1991), installed simultaneously in Japan and the USA, The Gates in Central Park, New York City (2005) and The Floating Piers at Lake Iseo in Italy (2016).

For the artist couple, who neither accepted sponsorship nor donations for their elaborate and costly projects, selling drawings, sketches, prints and collages with which Christo visualised the projects at the planning stage was essential to securing a financial basis for their realisation.

Jeanne-Claude’s communicative talent and the duo’s perseverance were key to pursuing their goals, whose realisation at times took decades.

“Christo and Jeanne-Claude were an artistic duo very much at par with each other. The pair was unique, dynamic, and never tired of their dreams. They were not interested in the art market, but rather they made themselves independent and, with their large fan base, generated a form of crowdfunding to finance their projects,” explains co-curator Sophie-Marie Sümmermann. “I am pleased that we are able to take a fresh look at this extraordinary couple.”

Two of the projects shown in the exhibition represent pinnacles in the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude: the wrapping of the Berlin Reichstag and the wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

As early as 1961 the couple had pondered wrapping a public building. From the 1970s, Christo produced drawings visualising the wrapping of the Reichstag. Following extensive debates and an authorisation process spanning years, it was possible to realise the wrapping of this political building in 1995.

Of equal significance was the realisation of the wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe in 2021.

The show also presents studies and drafts of the as-yet unrealised Mastaba project for Abu Dhabi, which, with its dimensions exceeding those of the Great Pyramid of Giza, would be visible as a monument of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s creativity for an indefinite period.

Text Kunstpalast Museum & Cammy Yiu / Photos Kunstpalast Museum