Christo, the conceptual artist who, with his wife and partner Jeanne-Claude, transformed urban landmarks and swaths of nature with vastly ambitious installations, died in New York on Sunday at the age of 84. The Bulgarian-born artist’s medium was largely fabric—most famously wrapping the entire hulking semi-ruin of Berlin’s Reichstag in shimmery silver in the summer of 1995, creating an exuberant atmosphere in the city still emerging from the fall of the wall. “The mood was just unbelievable,” recalled Norman Foster, who began his re-design of that old seat of power the moment the dressing came off.
Almost everywhere, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's projects sparked a joyful public response: shrouding 11 small islands in Biscayne Bay in hot pink (1983); covering the Pont Neuf in Paris, lamps and all (1985); using nearly two miles of saffron fabric to create a walkway connecting two islands in Lake Iseo in Italy (2016). During a gray February in New York City in 2005, Central Park came to vibrant life with “The Gates”: 7500 steel supports hung with bright orange fabric that snaked through 23 miles of the wintry landscape.
Part of the artistry, according to Christo and Jeanne-Claude (she died in 2009 and like her husband, only used a first name), was the planning, logistics and wrangling with public officials—often for years—over permission to mount these projects. They were financed, according to the New York Times, by selling drawings and models to collectors and museums. Lavish editions of documentary books accompanied many of the works.
Christo’s final project, decades old in conception, is wrapping the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in silvery blue fabric with red rope, originally scheduled to open this September but postponed until September 2021 due to the coronavirus.