Christo (born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, Bulgarian: Христо Явашев, June 13, 1935) and Jeanne-Claude (born Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, June 13, 1935 – November 18, 2009) were a married couple who created environmental works of art. Christo Yavacheff is Bulgarian born and Jeanne-Claude was born in Morocco. Their works include the wrapping of the Reichstag inBerlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, the 24-mile (39 km)-long artwork called Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin counties inCalifornia, and The Gates in New York City's Central Park.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were born on the same date, Christo in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, and Jeanne-Claude in Morocco. They first met in Paris in October 1958. Their works were credited to just "Christo" until 1994, when the outdoor works and large indoor installations were retroactively credited to "Christo and Jeanne-Claude". They flew in separate planes: in case one crashed, the other could continue their work.
Jeanne-Claude died, aged 74, on November 18, 2009, from complications of a brain aneurysm.
Although their work is visually impressive and often controversial as a result of its scale, the artists have repeatedly denied that their projects contain any deeper meaning than their immediate aesthetic impact. The purpose of their art, they contend, is simply to create works of art or joy and beauty and to create new ways of seeing familiar landscapes. Art critic David Bourdon has described Christo's wrappings as a "revelation through concealment." To his critics Christo replies, "I am an artist, and I have to have courage ... Do you know that I don't have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they're finished. Only the preparatory drawings, and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain."
At the end of 1970 Christo and Jeanne-Claude began their preparations for the Valley Curtain project. A 400-meter-long cloth was to be stretched across Rifle Gap, a valley in the Rocky Mountains near Rifle, Colorado. The project required 14,000 m2 of cloth to be hung on four steel cables, fastened with iron bars fixed in concrete on each slope, and 200 tons of concrete. The budget increased to $400,000, causing Christo and Jeanne-Claude additional problems with the financing. Finally enough works of art were sold to raise the money and, on 10 October 1971, the orange-coloured curtain was ready for hanging, but was torn to shreds by wind and rock. While a second curtain was being manufactured, Christo received a request from a Berlin art historian to wrap the Reichstag in response to the 1961 "Project for Wrapping a Public Building". On 10 August 1972, the second attempt to hang the cloth succeeded, but only 28 hours later it was destroyed by a storm gale in excess of 60 miles per hour.
The project was shown in the documentary film Christo's Valley Curtain, by David and Albert Maysles, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.