Culture Shock: Christo And Jeanne-Claude Have Always Gone Big

Lisa Barrow
3 min read
Christo and Jeanne-Claude Have Always Gone Big
“Orange Store Front, Project,” hand-collaged lithograph with printing, hand collages with aluminum plate, galvanized steel, acetate, cotton broadcloth and brown wrapping paper
Share ::
The year 1962 saw Christo and Jeanne-Claude barricading a Paris street with 89 rusted oil barrels to protest the Berlin Wall, constructed in 1961. And that was just small potatoes compared to their later works. For 10 weeks in 1969, an entire Australian coastline was wrapped by the artists in a million square miles of glistening erosion-control fabric and 35 miles of rope. In 1991 they erected 3,100 umbrellas across sister sites in the US and Japan. The 20-foot shades remained in place just over three weeks. In New York’s Central Park in 2005, they installed over 7,500 saffron-curtained “gates” snaking 23 miles along tree-lined walkways. “The Gates” stayed up for just 16 days.

Here in the Land of Enchantment, we’re accustomed to nature on a vast scale—that endless vault of sky, mountains purpling into the sun-drenched distance. But much of the art inspired by our limitless surroundings seems content to fit on a 4-foot canvas.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude have spent their career creating artworks that temporarily transform, enhance and reimagine enormous natural or public spaces in breathtaking—and often controversial—ways.

The large-scale environmental work of this artistic team has always been ephemeral. That’s part of its wonder (and probably a key to its popularity). But you can go right now to the Albuquerque Museum (2000 Mountain NW) and see an extensive collection of the beautiful conceptual sketches, collages, sculptures and photographs that formed an integral part of the original works’ life-cycles, particularly since they were so often sold to finance the multimillion-dollar projects themselves.
Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Tom Golden Collection is on display until Sept. 14.

The world-renowned Christo himself is coming to Albuquerque to present a lecture on two works in progress—“Over the River: Project for the Arkansas River, Colorado,” currently caught up in state and federal court cases, and “The Mastaba: Project for the United Arab Emirates”—on Friday, Aug. 22, from 6 to 8pm. Though Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009 while these two pieces were still in the planning stages, the projects continue the shared vision of Christo and his wife of more than half a century. The lecture costs zilch, zip, nada, but you’ve got to reserve your seat starting this Friday, Aug. 1, by calling 338-8760. Limit two tickets per person. Considering the vastness of the art, the evening is bound to be an intimate window into the work of decades—Christo will even sign up to two books purchased at the museum that night for those who attend the lecture.

For more information about the exhibit or lecture, head to or call them at 243-7255.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude Have Always Gone Big

“Over the River, Project for the Arkansas River, Colorado,” collage with pencil, enamel paint, photograph by Wolfgang Volz, with charcoal, tape and map

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Have Always Gone Big

“The Gates, Project for Central Park, New York,” serigraph with UV lacquer

All images courtesy of the Tom Golden Collection, Sonoma County Museum

1 2 3 234