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This article by Nicole Plett
was prepared for the March 20, 2002 edition of
U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Will Christo Finally Play at Home
Washington, D.C., has become the new seat of power
for Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The indefatigable art-making couple,
whose marriage and art partnership is in its fourth decade, gave a
talk last Wednesday, March 13, in conjunction with the first survey
exhibition in the United States at the National Gallery of Art.
The show, which encompasses the entire span of their careers, is on
view in the gallery’s East Building through June 23. "We’ve spent
so many days in Washington over the past six months — you could
say it’s becoming an addiction," the feisty red-haired
told an audience of more than 400.
The survey show primarily features art works and documentary
collected since the early 1970s by Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, who
have gifted the works to the nation. The first time the Vogels visited
Christo and Jeanne-Claude in 1971 (in the same home-studio-gallery
they still occupy in downtown Manhattan), they left without buying.
Yet a friendship ensued and the Vogels acquired their first work,
a collage, in exchange for taking care of the artists’ cat. Gladys,
the artists’ much admired pet, needed good care while they were away
from the city for two months working on their monumental "Valley
The Vogel collection now encompasses an even earlier
"Ur wrapped work," "Package," of 1961. In the exhibit,
this "Package" looks a bit like an ancient relic — a
cloth-wrapped bunch of stuff, obsessively bound in four different
kinds of string and a web of knots that would impress a sailor. The
show also features Christo’s one-of-a-kind scale models of artworks
and his earnest collages that combine lively perspective renderings
of his ideas with maps, diagrams, and material samples.
At the National Gallery, after delivering a breathless, 40-minute
slide tour through their career reminiscent of the one they gave at
Princeton University in 1997, the couple invited questions. "Ask
us anything you like," Jeanne-Claude announced. "But no
about generalities; no questions about other artists."
Over the years, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s public talks have become
an integral part of their monumental sculptural projects. From the
massive "Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin," to the shimmering
Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California" that still gleams
in memory, this couple’s artworks temporarily change the face of the
landscape while they changed the face of art forever. In place for
just 14 days, their works are soon dismantled, their vast quantities
of materials are recycled, and the land restored to its original
You could say these artworks are one measure inspiration, one measure
persuasion, and at least two more measures of faithfulness, patience,
and organizational genius.
"We make temporary works of art of joy and beauty," says
Yet while California, Florida, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and
have all marveled at their artworks, no major project has been
in the couple’s adopted home town, Manhattan.
Christo, a stateless refugee from Bulgaria, Jeanne-Claude, raised
in Tunisia by her French parents, and their son Cyril ("our first
collaboration"), set up house in New York City in 1964. Right
away, the artists had in mind wrapping one or two of the skyscrapers
that greeted them when they sailed into the New York harbor. But aside
from Christo’s collage black-and-white photographs that were the
first conceptual blueprint, none was wrapped.
Eventually, the artists proposed "The Gates Project," a work
for Central Park that emphasizes the footpaths and underscores the
organic design of Frederick Law Olmsted’s plan. In this project,
saffron-colored fabric will be suspended from 15-foot steel gates
along the park’s pathways to form a 26-mile golden passage.
"New York City is one of the most walking cities in the
says Christo. "The only place where people in Manhattan walk for
leisure is in the park. We tried to design structures that will
that simple act of walking."
Central Park is an entirely man-made oasis, a rectangular swathe of
the city, surrounded on four sides by massive buildings, that has
been called Manhattan’s lung. Olmsted’s picturesque landscape design
is rife with Victorian ceremony.
"People enter Central Park in a ceremonial way. It is surrounded
by a stone wall, and there are many entrances, each called a gate,
named by the designers. There is the `Gate of the Children,’ the `Gate
of the Immigrants,’ the `Gate of the Artists’ — they all have
names," says Christo. "`The Gates’ is a very ceremonial
a festive project."
"Fabric moves very whimsically, very sensually," he continues.
"When there is no wind, you can almost touch the fabric with your
hand. But when the wind starts, then the fabric panels start flowing
towards the next gate. When the wind is blowing strongly and the
is extended upwards towards the next gate, walking beneath it is like
walking beneath a floating, flowing, capricious canopy."
Beginning in 1979, the artists worked on obtaining the
necessary permission for a two-week installation of "The
in early autumn. Their meetings with community boards, the Parks
the Landmarks Commission, and city officials of the Ed Koch
went on for three years. In 1980, a year after the project was
a new bureaucracy came into existence, the Central Park Conservancy,
a virtual trustee for the park. In 1981 the project was refused by
the then-powers-that-be, but the artists have not been deterred.
"`Wrapped Reichstag’ in Berlin took us 24 years," says
"The project was turned down three times. It’s not new for us
that this project was turned down."
The artists persevered with their dream and meetings on "The
began again in 1996. This time, as Jeanne-Claude told her Washington
audience, a new member of the board was present at their meetings,
one who took great interest in their work and their proposal.
"He was not an art collector, but a wealthy man who became a big
supporter. He was really excited about our work and he tried and
in changing the minds of some of the conservative board members,"
"Then last fall something marvelous happened. This man was elected
mayor of New York City."
With Michael Bloomberg in their corner, the golden glimmer of Christo
and Jeanne-Claude’s "Gates" may have just got a little
— Nicole Plett
Van Dyck: `Ecce Homo’ and `The Mocking of Christ.’" Also, "In
the Mirror of Christ’s Passion: Images from Princeton University
Both shows to June 9. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5
p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Free tours of the collection every Saturday
at 2 p.m.
Also "New German Photography" to March 24. "Anxious
Surveillance in Contemporary Cultural Practice," to April 1.
to Kollwitz: German Art in the Age of Expressionism," to June
9. "Guardians of the Tomb: Spirit Beasts in Tang Dynasty
to August 31.
609-258-3184. "Not for Myself Alone: A Celebration of
Writers," the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Collection of Jewish-American
Writers that ranges from the early 19th century to the present day
and includes Yiddish-language writers as well as writers in English.
Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To April 21.
Library Place, 609-497-7990. "Meeting Stone," an exhibition
of sculpture by Caroline Fenn. Open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m.
to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2 to 8 p.m. To April 12.
609-771-2198. "The Ancient House," an exhibition that
the grandeur of ancient Greek and Roman homes with actual and
ancient artifacts from the collections of the Princeton, Glencairn,
Newark, and University of Pennsylvania. Open Monday through Friday,
noon to 3 p.m.; Thursday 7 to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 3 p.m. To April
West Windsor, 609-586-4800, ext. 3589. "Mercer County Artists
2002," the annual juried show of works by Mercer County artists
selected by John Franklin of the Johnson Atelier. Gallery hours
to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday 6 to 8 p.m.; Thursday 7
to 9 p.m. To April 4.
Lawrenceville, 609-896-5168. "Moments of Vision," an
of the still-lifes of New Jersey artist Adolf Konrad. Known as the
painter laureate of Newark, Konrad was born in Germany in 1915,
at age 10, and studied at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial
Arts. Artist’s talk Thursday, April 11.
ext. 3170. "Photographic Memoirs: The Public Schools of
an exhibition curated by Liz Lien, featuring photographs of teachers
and students in the Princeton Regional School System from 1883 to
1948. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.; and by
from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
In the dining room, landscapes by Donna Senopoulos of the American
Watercolor Society. Part of proceeds benefit the Medical Center. On
view daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. To May 15.
"The Colorists," paintings and drawings by contemporary
Caroline Bailey, Marj Bond, Herb Murrie, and Charles MacQueen. Gallery
is open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To March 30.
908-735-8415. "Jim Toia: Groundwork" and "Peter Arakawa:
Recent Work." Museum hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5
p.m. To April 28.
215-340-9800. "Roy C. Nuse: Figures and Landscapes," an
of works by the influential Bucks County artist and teacher (1885
to 1975) who trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; to
May 12. Open Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday &
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Wednesday evenings to 9 p.m. $6.
Museum, 1225 River Road, Piscataway, 732-745-4177. "Uncommon Clay:
New Jersey’s Architectural Terra Cotta Industry," an exhibition
of artifacts and written and oral histories. Free.
an exhibition of art work from third, fourth, and fifth graders in
the Learning Through Art Education outreach program. Conducted with
the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, it brings area artists and
classroom teachers together to reinforce core curriculum concepts
through visual arts. The children’s work will go to the Guggenheim
for exhibit later in the school year. Monday through Friday 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m. To April 5.
Trenton, 609-394-4000. Garden State Watercolor Society Members Juried
Exhibit 2002. Jurors are watercolorist Denise DeNault Croft and Mary
Chandor, National Gallery of Art, Ontario, Canada. In the main lobby,
open daily, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. To April 18.
A shared exhibition by painter Tomi Urayama and sculptor by Gyuri
Hollosy. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.;
Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To April 14.
"Reformed Relics," paintings, drawings, and assemblage
by Deborah Sawyer. Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To March
609-586-0616. Fall/Winter Exhibition. Open Tuesday through Sunday,
10 a.m. to 9 p.m., year round; Sunday is Members Day. Adult admission
is $4 Tuesday through Thursday; $7 Friday and Saturday; and $10
To March 24.
609-292-6464. "Images of Americans on the Silver Screen,"
to April 14; "Jacob Landau: A Memorial" to May 5; "Women’s
Works: Fine Art from the Museum’s Collection," March 22 to May
12; "Art by African-Americans: A Selection from the
to August 18; "American Indians as Artists: The Beginnings of
the State Museum’s Ethnographic Collection," to September 15.
Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday
noon to 5 p.m. Website: www.njstatemuseum.org.
Museum , Department of State Galleries, 225 West State Street,
609-292-6464. The Memory Wall from Liberty State Park provides the
central focus of this immediate and moving tribute to those lost at
the World Trade Center on September 11. Department of State galleries
are open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday noon
to 5 p.m. To May 12.
"Red Skies, Yellow Trains and Blue Bottles," an exhibit of
hand-painted double exposure prints by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac. Also
of Two Shores," coastal landscapes of the Maine and Hampton
by E.J. Greenblat. Gallery hours are Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. To March 31.
Road, 609-921-3272. "Images in Motion," an exhibit of
from the Trenton Educational Dance Institute, the dance project for
inner city youth. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to
3 p.m.; Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. To March 29.
609-924-6055. "The City Speaks," photographs by Coleen Marks
including a series of 16 images of American flags taken in Manhattan
on November 9. Artist talk is Sunday, March 24, at 2 p.m. Exhibit
open Sundays, from 1 to 4 p.m. To April 5.
Geore Street, New Brunswick, 732-524-6957. "The Fabric of Jazz:
A Tribute to the Genius of American Music" by Lauren Camp, fabric
artist. By appointment. To April 20.
908-996-1470. "Paintings from Here and There" by Trenton
Marge Chavooshian. Gallery is open Wednesday & Thursday, 11 a.m. to
5 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
To March 31.
"Bull’s Eye," a group show of work by six emerging artists:
Dave Cooper, Jim Houser, Scott Lenhardt, Jeff Soto, Jonathan Weiner,
and Patrick Williams. Gallery hours are Thursday through Monday, 11
a.m. to 6 p.m. To March 31.
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