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News from Christo!

We met the leading exponent of the Land Art movement at the BRAFA Art Fair

christo-interview
Wolfgang Volz

Together with his late wife Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillerbon, Christo is widely acknowledged as one of the major representatives of the Land Art movement 

We meet Christo on the occasion of the BRAFA Art Fair 2018 (now counting 63 editions) held until February 4th, 2018 within the premises of Tour & Taxis in Brussels, Belgium; here, the legendary sculpture “Three Store Fronts” made by the Bulgarian artist in 1965-66 is being currently brought back to light.

First showcased at the municipal Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, and later included in the retrospective exhibition “Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Early Works, 1958-69” at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin in 2001, the installation is built out of architectural elements recovered from scrap heaps and the remnants of demolished buildings. The artwork includes a few recurring elements carried throughout the artist’s career: the curtains of fabric draped on the inside of the panes can indeed be seen as forerunners of such projects as the Valley Curtain, the Running Fence or The Floating Piers, which drawn more than a million visitors to the Iseo Lake in the summer 2016.

The collaboration between Christo and BRAFA resulted from “Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Urban Projects”, the first retrospective museum exhibition since the 1980s of the urban projects realised by the creative couple currently on show at the ING Art Center in Brussels until the 25th of February, 2018.

Bulgarian-born sculptor Christo (aka Javashev Christo) was born in Gavrovo in 1935. After completing studies in Sofia, Prague, and Vienna, he joined the Nouveau Réalisme movement in Paris in 1958; eventually, he later moved to New York in 1964. Here, he started a 35-year partnership with his wife and artist Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillerbon – who passed away in 2009 – and gained credits as one of the major representative of the Land Art movement; together, the duo created monumentally-scaled sculptures and installations which often employed the technique of draping or wrapping large portions of existent landscapes – like the Running Fence in California, the Surrounded Islands in Miami, The Gates in New York’s Central Park –, buildings (ranging from the Pont Neuf in Paris to Berlin’s Reichstag), and industrial objects with specially engineered fabric. His upcoming project is titled Mastaba, a site-specific installation floating on the Serpentine Lake at Hyde Park, in London. 

Is the Land Art a means of connecting people with new art perspectives or a way of exploring a fresh approach to life?

You always have to unearth new takes and realities, and to offer people a more aware interpretation of space. Take the Reichstag in Berlin: once concealed under drapes of fabric, it suddenly became something else, as it generally happens to any other object or place.

You often call your work “irrational, irresponsible, useless”, lacking of any political message. Is there an actual purpose to your massive installations?

To me, art means to model living pieces of creativity to be experienced by an audience. We create joy and beauty, for both our own sake and that of the people who connects with our work.

Why did you choose the Iseo Lake for your latest installation in Italy? 

We first came up with the idea of a modular floating dock system back in 1970. Argentina was the first selected location (but didn’t happen in the end), and then when Japan came, but we couldn’t find a common ground. I have been taking so many paths which all proved to be dead ends, and when my 80 candles came to a close I quickly realised that – unless I found the right site quickly – I could be dead before seeing the artwork coming to life. I went location hunting to Italy with a few collaborators of mine, and the Iseo Lake unravelled before our eyes. It was the most inspiring location, and from then on everything was smooth.

In your works you have bene using vibrant colour palettes, see the yellow pathway on the Iseo Lake, and the luminous pink tone of the Surrounded Islands in 1980s. You occasionally went for white, as well. Is there a specific reason for that?

Colour is a crucial element, and its use depends on a keen evaluation of the chosen location, the potential contrast with the landscape’s palette, and the season. As for The Floating Piers, the shimmering yellow fabric went hand in hand with the reflections in water, hence taking on tirelessly varying nuances which ranged from gold to red. Fabric is the name of the game: a delicate and sensual material which embody my artwork’s temporary and volatile existence.

You have always raised funds to finance your monumental works by selling the preparatory drawings, paintings, models and collages to collectors and dealers. Why?

Freedom is vital to me. To have the privilege to conceive and pay for my own works without accounting to anybody is the greatest pleasure. 

What was the role of Jeanne-Claude in your life and work?

We were born the same day of the same year. She was the critical side of my work. She used to question my decisions down to the last detail and explore any possible solution. I deeply miss her both privately and professionally, but I keep working also in her name. 

What about your next London project this Spring?

I am currently working on the Mastaba project in London, with Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake to provide the location (the work will be inaugurated concurrently with a retrospective expo on the artist due to take place at the Serpentine Galleries from 20th June to 9th September, 2018). A smaller version of the permanent one soon to be realised in Abu Dhabi, it will be made up of 7,506 oil barrels painted red, white, and blue to symbolise the Union Jack, along with mauve which I think is very royal. 

www.christojeanneclaude.net

www.brafa.art

 

 


by Paola Testoni / 9 February 2018

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