Jeanne-Claude: Artist celebrated with her husband Christo for the pair's large-scale public artworks

Jeanne-Claude was the flamboyant half of the symbiotic artistic partnership known as "Christo and Jeanne-Claude". The couple are widely recognised for their ephemeral projects together, over more than 50 years, involving the large-scale transformation of public places, by wrapping in fabric, surrounding in material or the planting of brightly-coloured objects.

The two artists were born on the same day, 13 June 1935: Jeanne-Claude in Casablanca, Morocco and Christo in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. Christo fled the repressive regime of his native country for Paris in 1956, and worked as a jobbing artist. It was there, two years later, that the couple met, while Christo was painting portraits of Précilda de Guillebon, Jeanne-Claude's mother. Although Jeanne-Claude married Philippe Planchon in 1959, she left him shortly afterwards, already pregnant at the time with Christo's son, Cyril.

The artists' first outdoor collaboration was in Cologne in 1961. Here, their Dockside Packages project made use of materials found at the port, including oil barrels and tarpaulin, to create substantial and impressive temporary sculptures. It was later the same year that they first proposed the "wrapping" of a public building, the Ecole Militaire in Paris, an idea which has so far not been realised. Other public installations, however, were later to materialise, based on the Christos' belief that "Traditional sculpture creates its own space. We take a space not belonging to a sculpture, and make sculpture out of it."

In 1962 the couple once again used oil barrels, this time to close off the Rue Visconti in Paris for a day. Although their request for permission to create the installation had been refused, they went ahead anyway, in a protest against the building of the Berlin Wall. This was one of the very few occasions when their art would make a political statement, instead of being simply for the pleasure of the spectacle, as Jeanne-Claude made clear, talking about their later work: "Our art has absolutely no purpose, except to be a work of art. We do not give messages."

The couple moved to New York in 1964, basing themselves first at the Chelsea Hotel and then in a Manhattan loft, which has been both home and studio space to them ever since. Little Bay, near Sydney, was the venue for the first "wrapping" which engaged with nature. Here, Wrapped Coast (1969), entailed covering a mile and a half of cliff and beach. Despite initial opposition, the work was hailed as a success and was to lead to many more works in urban and natural contexts.

The couple's best known piece, Wrapped Reichstag, which involved cloaking the German parliament building in cloth, had first been conceived in 1971. After years of deliberations and negotiations, undertaken for the most part by Jeanne-Claude as the couple's public face, it was voted on by representatives in 1994 and completed in 1995. Significantly, the then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who had consistently opposed the idea, reportedly left Berlin for the two-week duration of the event. The finished artwork used over one million square feet of silvery material, to spectacular effect, and attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to Germany's nascent capital city. Wrapped Pont Neuf (1985) again saw the couple up against the authorities. Fortunately, Jacques Chirac, the then mayor of Paris who had initially opposed the proposal, eventually warmed to the idea of shrouding the Paris bridge with golden fabric.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude's artworks have always been funded by themselves and have never received grants or sponsorships from governments, companies or other organisations, which assured the couple's artistic freedom. The labour and materials used to implement their projects are funded by the sale of preparatory drawings and photos of the finished works. Likewise, the many books published about their work are, with very few exceptions, funded by the couple themselves. Such was their determination to remain self-funded that in 1988 they refused a $1m fee for a proposed 60-second slot on Japanese television.

With their growing recognition, the ideas became ever more ambitious. In 1991 Umbrellas witnessed 3100 blue and yellow umbrellas spread over sites in Ibaraki, Japan and California over an 18-day period. The Gates was the first outdoor installation in their adopted city of New York. Completed in 2005, in Central Park, it involved the placing of bright orange drapes forming arches over the pathways, creating an event which brought some 5m visitors. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, described it as "one of the most exciting public art projects ever put on anywhere in the world" and emphasised that "it would never have happened without Jeanne-Claude".

At the time of Jeanne-Claude's death there are still two substantial works in progress: Over the River, which proposes a covering over nearly six miles of the Arkansas River in Colorado and The Mastaba, which envisages a pyramid formed of 410,000 oil barrels in the United Arab Emirates. Christo has undertaken to continue these works, as Jeanne-Claude would have wanted.

Marcus Williamson

Jeanne-Claude Christo-Javacheff (née Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon), artist; born Casablanca, Morocco 13 June 1935; married 1959 Philippe Planchon (divorced), 1962 Christo Javacheff (one son); died New York 18 November 2009.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Manager - SAS - Data Warehouse - Banking

£350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Internal Project Manager - Business Analyst, Financial Services

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the best known and most pr...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer
 SQL, C#, VBA, Linux, SQL Se...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment