The Suitcase Lady


January 31, 2017, 10:36 pm

Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, are internationally famous installation artists who wrap things up. Whereas we ordinary people wrap packages and presents, this couple thinks more monumentally. They have wrapped the German Reichstag, an ancient Roman wall, a Spoleto fountain, a medieval tower, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, a coast in Australia, a park of trees and the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris.

When not wrapping, the pair has surrounded eleven Florida islands in shocking pink fabric, erected 1,340 blue umbrellas in Japan and 1,760 yellow umbrellas in California. Millions of visitors viewed their 7,503 orange fabric gates in Central Park.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude were born on the same day, June 13, 1935, he in Gabrovo, Bulgaria and she in Casablanca, Morocco of French parents. The two met in Paris in 1958 when Christo painted a portrait of Jeanne-Claude’s mother. They began collaborating on art projects in Europe, moved to America in 1964 and made New York their home base. Both became American citizens. Years of teamwork ended in 2009 when Jeanne-Claude died from a brain aneurysm.

According to the couple, the purpose of their gigantic constructions is to create works of art for joy and beauty. They financed their works entirely through selling the preparatory drawings and collages for the projects. No licensing deals were ever entered into, and all workers on their installations were paid. The locales where their artworks were constructed reaped huge windfalls of tourist dollars.

Although all of their works took years or decades to come to fruition, none exist at the moment. They were all created to be temporal; some existed only a fortnight.

Until last week, Christo was working on the final stages of his largest project, a silvery, 42 mile canopy floating over the Arkansas River in Colorado. He has invested over 20 years and 15 million of his own dollars into “Over the River”. The artist now has cancelled the project.

An excerpt from an interview of Christo by a New York Times reporter follows:

“Christo said the Job-like patience required in seeking approval for his projects has always been an element of the spirit of the projects themselves. He needs to feel passion about them, in the same way a more traditional painter and sculptor does, he added. But in this case, ‘that pleasure is gone because of the nature of the new administration. I am not excited about the project anymore’, he said. ‘Why should I spend more money on something I don’t want to do?’ “

Perhaps Christo could become interested in wrapping The Statue of Liberty. That would be apropos of the moment.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin 1971-95 Photo- A. Kasimir Ciesielski C1995 Christo | by

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