(Gabrovo, Bulgaria, 1935 - )
Lives New York
Christo received a traditional academic education in painting, drawing and stage design at the Fine Arts Academy in Sofia before leaving Eastern Europe for the West at age twenty-one. He studied at Vienna Fine Arts Academy from 1956-1957 and then moved to Paris, where in 1958 he met his partner in art and life, Jeanne-Claude. In 1964, the couple immigrated to New York City. Although their collaboration dates back to 1962, for several years only Christo was credited for their work. In 1994, they retroactively applied the joint name “Christo and Jeanne-Claude” to their large environmental art projects. While Christo is given sole credit for the preparatory drawings and collages the duo used to raise money for projects, the concept and execution are now properly recognized as joint efforts.
Perhaps Christo’s background in theater production inspired his early interest in fabric as a fluid, transitory and transformative material. In his packages and wrapped objects of the late 50s/early 60s, Christo bundled everyday objects, lending them a sculptural quality and concealing their true nature. In 1962, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s first outdoor installation, 'Wall of Barrels, Iron Curtain', consisted of a barricade of oil drums blocking a street in Paris to protest the erection of the Berlin Wall. In 1995, Christo and Jeanne-Claude celebrated the end of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany by draping polypropylene fabric over the entire surface of the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament.
Christo describes the realization of their temporary projects—which require years of meeting with bureaucrats and mountains of paperwork—as a process of discovering joy and beauty, stating, “Like every artist, every true artist, we create them for us.” Over the past two decades, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects have become meaningful communal events, both during and after construction. Besides drawing countless tourists to the sites of their temporary creations, residents see once-familiar surroundings transformed. While Jeanne-Claude passed away in Manhattan in 2009, Christo continues to work on their only permanent installation. 'The Mastaba', the site of which is in Abu Dhabi, will be the largest sculpture in the world, 4 meters taller than the largest pyramid of Giza, and will consist of 410,000 multi-colored steel barrels.