New York (dpa) - Anyone who believed that Christo saw any deeper meaning in his silver-coated Berlin Reichstag or his bright yellow, floating jetties on a lake in Italy was wrong.
"It is totally irrational and pointless," said the Bulgarian-American packaging artist in 2014 about his work. But the beauty of his buildings and landscapes transformed into abstract objects fascinated millions. Now Christo died on Sunday at the age of 84 in New York.
It was always a game of form and color when the artist, born on June 13, 1935 as Christo Vladimiroff Javacheff in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, covered another piece of the world with plastic sheets.
Among the most famous of his projects realized worldwide were the saffron-colored gates in New York's Central Park ("The Gates"), the floating, nylon-covered walkways on the water of Lake Iseo in Lombardy ("Floating Piers") and the one that was veiled in 1995 Berlin Reichstag and the packed Pont Neuf in Paris.
The installations, some of which were visible from a distance of several kilometers, such as the “Valley Curtain” in Colorado or the giant yellow and blue parasols in Japan and California (“The Umbrellas”), soon only emerged as a team. With his wife Jeanne-Claude, with whom he has always been a duo since the 1990s, Christo fought for several decades from the initial plans to the implementation of a project. Jeanne-Claude, who comes from Casablanca in Morocco and was born on the same day as Christo, had died of a cerebral hemorrhage in New York in 2009 at the age of 74.
"Jeanne-Claude and I do these things for ourselves," said the artist with the white curly hair. «If someone likes it, it's just a bonus. We do things that we like visually. » The path is the goal: «These projects bring us to places that are so much richer than the art world or the gallery or the museum. We can work with many different people. It is an adventure and very exciting and foolish. »
The marriage of the two was also one of socialism and capitalism: Christo, who was trained in Marxism in Bulgaria and who neither accepted money from sponsors nor government subsidies, was only able to realize free art for millions through his wife's entrepreneurial spirit. In 2005, they declined a bid from a $ 50 million financier for Central Park's 7,500 orange gates and fabrics. Christo is said to have said to the offer: "I would not sell it for 100 million."
For this reason, and also because of the visual impact of the works, which was visible over kilometers, the couple was thrilled. Above all, the Berlin Reichstag, wrapped in silver fabric and tied with blue ropes, is unforgettable. The spectacle over two weeks in 1995 was nothing less than a rescheduled summer party for the fall of the Berlin Wall, Rüdiger Schaper from Berlin's “Tagesspiegel” remembered on the 20th anniversary. In 2013, Christo realized a project without his wife for the first time with an air package in the Gasometer Oberhausen, dubbed the “Big Air Package”.
The financial independence gave Christo a lot of freedom in his many years of efforts to implement a project partly against resistance from environmentalists and despite the requirements of building authorities. In 2017, he gave up the job "Over The River" in the state of Colorado in an open protest against US President Donald Trump, in which he had invested around $ 15 million over 20 years. He should have rented the one on the Arkansas River from the US government under Trump.
The transience of the large temporary installations always reminded of the volatility of life itself. "It is somehow naive and arrogant to believe that this thing will stay forever, forever," commented Christo at the time of the Reichstag concealment.
Luminous plastic surfaces, buildings and regions, as packaged into oversized gifts or parcels - fascinating images will be remembered by Christo's work. The fact that almost none of them can be seen today should only have increased their splendor. "All of these projects have a strong dimension of lack, restraint," said Christo to the Reichstag cover. "They will disappear, like our childhood, our life." That is what makes the experience so intense.
Projects by Christo and Jeanne-Claude
"Tagesspiegel" on 20 years of Reichstag veiling
Interview with Christo, 2014
Tate Gallery on Christo and Jeanne-Claude