Christo, in full Christo Javacheff, is part of a duo (Christo and Jean-Claude) that is noted for their controversial outdoor sculptures and displays of fabrics and plastics.
He was born 13 June 1935 in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. Artists from the Academy who visited his family observed Christo's artistic talent while he was still of a very young age.
Christo had an interest in theatre and staged Shakespeare plays in his youth. In 1953, he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts, but was disappointed by the strict socialist curriculum imposed by the ruling Communist Party at the time. He studied art at the Sofia Academy and the Prague academy until 1957, when he escaped the Communist State by hiding himself in a truck transporting medicine to Austria.
Soon after he moved to Paris. As a result of his flight, he lost his citizenship and became a stateless person. His life in Paris was characterized by financial hardship and social isolation, which was worsened by his difficulty learning the French language. He earned money by painting portraits. Visiting the city's galleries and museums, he was inspired by the work of Miro, Pollock and most notably Jean Dubuffet.
In January 1958, Christo fabricated his first piece of wrapping art: He wrapped a paint tin with acrylic-soaked canvas, tied it, and colored it with glue, sand, and car paint.
Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude met in October 1958, when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of her mother. Jeanne-Claude at that moment was engaged. Shortly before her wedding, Jeanne-Claude became pregnant by Christo. Although she married her fiancee, Jeanne-Claude left him immediately after their honeymoon. Christo and Jeanne-Claude's son, Cyril, was born May the 11th, 1960. Jeanne-Claude's parents were displeased with the relationship, particularly because of Christo's humble origins, and temporarily estranged themselves from their daughter. Despite this estrangement, the couple married on 28 November 1962.
In 1959 Christo changed his approach to wrapping objects. Rather than covering the wrapping material with glue and sand, he left it unaltered. In 1960, he ceased painting altogether.
In 1961, Christo covered barrels at the port of Cologne, the first large objects he wrapped. In 1962, the couple tackled their first monumental project, Rideau de Fer. As a statement against the Berlin Wall and without warning or consent of authorities, they blocked off a small street on the River Seine, with oil barrels. Jeanne-Claude stalled approaching police, convincing them to allow the piece to stand for a few hours. It was this Visconti project that made Christo known in Paris.
In September 1964, Christo and Jeanne-Claude settled in New York City. Although poor and lacking fluency in the English language, Christo displayed his work in several galleries. Christo began to wrap storefronts which he had built to scale. Sale of the storefronts helped pay off debts and financed his larger projects. Their next project, a 1,200-cubic-meter package, was constructed with the help of students.
Their monumental later projects included Valley Curtain, Running Fence and Surrounded Islands. In 1985 in Paris, they wrapped the Pont Neuf (bridge) in beige cloth. In a 1991 project, the couple installed +1000 giant blue umbrellas across the Sato River valley in Japan and +1500 giant yellow ones in Tejon Pass, California. A few years later they wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in metallic silver fabric. The Gates in Central Park in New York City was unveiled in 2005. Stretching across 23 miles of walkway in Central Park, the work featured 7,503 steel gates that were 16 feet high and decorated with saffron-coloured cloth panels.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude's huge, usually outdoor sculptures are temporary and involve hundreds of assistants in their construction. These works force observers to confront questions regarding the nature of art. As the scope of the projects widened, increased time was needed for planning and construction phases. For each project a corporation was formed, which secured financing and sold the primary models and sketches. Most installations were documented in print and on film, and the materials that created them were sold or given away after the projects were dismantled.