Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon
Christo and Jeanne-Claude collaborated on dozens of environmental installation art projects. They were born on the same date — 13 June 1935. Christo was born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff in Gabrovo, Bulgaria to an industrial family. His father, Vladimir Yavachev, was a scientist, and his mother, Tsveta Dimitrova, born in Macedonia, was the secretary at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia. Jeanne-Claude was born Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon in Casablanca, Morocco, where her French military father was stationed.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude met in Paris in October 1958, when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of her mother, Précilda de Guillebon. Jeanne-Claude's parents were displeased with the relationship, particularly because of Christo's refugee status, and temporarily estranged themselves from their daughter. The couple have a son, Cyril, born in 1960. In 1964, they moved to New York.
How did it all start? Christo exhibited his first series of packaged objects in 1958. In 1962, the couple tackled their first project created in a public space, Iron Curtain – Wall of Oil Barrels, Rue Visconti, Paris 1961–62. As a statement against the Berlin Wall, they blocked off a small street near the River Seine with oil barrels. This was done without consent of authorities, with Jeanne-Claude stalling approaching police, convincing them to allow the piece to stand for a few hours. Although he was simultaneously holding his first exhibition at a gallery, it was the Visconti project that made Christo known in Paris.
Wrapped Coast – One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Australia, 1968–69 was their first landscape work and, at that time, the largest single artwork that had ever been made. Since then, their works have included wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin (1971–95) and the Pont Neuf in Paris (1975–85); creating a ‘curtain’ that ran more than 39 kilometres (24 miles) across two California counties (1972–76); installing 1340 blue umbrellas in Japan and 1760 yellow ones in the USA (1984–91); and, most recently, realising The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979–2005.
Jeanne-Claude died on 16 November 2009, after the Kaldor Public Art Projects Explorer was created.
See also Christo and Jeanne-Claude website.
Relevant works in the Art Gallery of NSW collection