Illustrious conceptual artist Christo died Sunday at his home in New York, at the age of 84. From wrapping Paris’s Pont Neuf in shimmering fabric to installing thousands of orange gates in New York’s Central Park to building massive floating piers on Italy’s Lake Iseo, his prodigious temporary works, installed in public sites around the world, were iconic.
Born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff in Bulgaria in 1935, the artist found his way to Paris in 1958, where he met and married Jeanne-Claude, who became his artistic partner as well. “There was no separation. It was all simultaneous. We argue, we fight. It’s a continuous conversation,” Christo told AD of their personal and professional relationship.
The duo, who worked under the single name “Christo,” spent years—and sometimes even decades—conceiving their monumental projects in what they called the “software” phase of each work. During this time, the artists pulled off herculean collaboration with governments, landowners, historic preservation groups, environmental advocates, and architects and engineers to realize their large-scale visions, which were always site-specific, free to the public, and primarily self-funded. And they were temporary: the “hardware” phase, when the works were built and on view, could last as little as two weeks, though they were always preserved by photographer Wolfgang Volz, with whom Christo worked on each project.
Though the artists used materials as varied as oil barrels and umbrellas, they were most drawn to fabric, wrapping everything from the Reichstag in Berlin to the cliffs along the Australian coast to the islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. “The projects have this nonstop energy, but we have all kinds of material—steel, cable—but the fabric gives this fragility and temporary movement that will be gone forever and never come back,” Christo told AD. “This material can be folded, can be installed very fast, can be removed very fast. We know that it’s very fragile, very sensual, and very free and can be installed in a few hours.”
At the time of his death, Christo had several works in progress, including his first permanent installation: a larger version of The Mastaba, a pyramid-like sculpture built of 7,506 oil barrels and floated on London’s The Serpentine in 2018. If plans move forward, the new sculpture will be built in the Abu Dhabi desert and will comprise 410,000 oil barrels; it would be one of the largest sculptures in the world, coming in at 11 feet taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza. The one project that will definitely come to fruition, however, is one that Christo and Jeanne-Claude first conceived in 1962. In September 2021, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris will be wrapped in blue fabric, per the artists’ wishes. “By some incredible chance of circumstance, the project I had almost like a dream conceived of in 1962 when I still lived in Paris and a project I never believed we’d get permission for, we got the permission,” Christo told AD when the project was first announced in 2019.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest