THE artist Christo has died at the age of 84. Famous for his “wrapping” of everything from buildings to cliffs, Bulgarian-born Christo was one of the most controversial artists of the age, and never ceased to surprise and amaze with his installations, most of them huge in scale.

Along with transforming large-scale landmarks, including famous city buildings, Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude also created monumental works of art in nature.

Having been brought up in a country occupied first by the Nazis and then the Soviets, he championed the cause of artistic freedom, once saying “the work of art is a scream of freedom”.


BORN Christo Vladimirov Javacheff in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, in 1935, he spent time in Czechoslovakia – as it then was – as well as Austria and Switzerland, before moving to France. He met Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon in Paris in 1958, and she became pregnant with his child while engaged to another man. Moving eventually

to the USA, they became lifelong collaborators until her death in 2009. Christo always made sure that she was given equal credit for their work, while his generosity towards other collaborators and students made him highly respected in the art world.

Christo always used the term “we” when talking about his work: “It is not only one person’s work, it’s really a partnership and collaboration during all these years.”

He once explained why their work went under his first name.

“The decision to use only the name Christo was made deliberately when we were young,” he said, “because it is difficult for one artist to get established and we wanted to put all the chances on our side.”

He didn’t need to have a genius for publicity when his mammoth artworks got it automatically.

He once wrote: “In 1964, when we first arrived in New York City, I remember vividly seeing the skyline of Manhattan, and our first proposal of 1964 was to wrap two lower Manhattan buildings. We never got permission.”


PROBABLY his most famous work was The Gates in Central Park in New York, which took 26 years to plan and complete by 2005.

It involved 7503 “gates” made of saffron-coloured fabric being placed all over the park – more than 23 miles of material was used.

One of his own favourites was an indoor installation, the Wrapped Floor, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 1968.

The following year they started their first major environmental artwork, Wrapped Coast, in which they covered the cliffs of Little Bay, Australia, in fabric.

At the time, it was the largest single work of art on Earth. Other big ones included Valley Curtain in the USA, wrapping the Pont Neuf in Paris, the Umbrellas in California and Japan, and the 2018 installation on the Serpentine in London.

“It’s very important to understand that we never do the same thing twice,” Christo once said. “Each of our projects is unique ... each project is a unique image.

“We do not know in advance how the work will look. I do preparatory drawings, but they are only projections of our vision.”

Interestingly, he was no great fan of Germany, despite the German government giving him permission to wrap the Reichstag.

His ambition to wrap the Arc de Triomphe is surviving him and should be completed next year.


CHRISTO famously did not sell photographs and earned no royalties on books, posters, postcards.

Instead he mostly auctioned drawings and images of what a work would look like to fund the actual artwork itself.

Therefore his legacy is the memory and sheer daring of his installations.