Jeanne-Claude was half of the team known as ‘Christo and Jeanne-Claude’. They were known for temporary, monumental, site-specific art works, which used fabric to wrap and obscure the outsides of buildings and other structures. In this way they created forms that interacted with already existing buildings, bridges, parks, etc.
Born Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon in Casablanca, she met Christo Javacheff in Paris in 1961. Both worked together, using only their first names as they created their large-scale art works. Christo’s interest in “wrapping” places or things in swaths of fabric soon became an obsession.
Unlike most land artists, their work was found in populated areas where it can be experienced by thousands of people at no cost to them. In 1961, they did their first collaborative work “Stacked Oil Barrels and Dockside Packages” at the harbor in Cologne, Germany before moving to New York City in 1964.
In 1976, they installed their best known work “Running Fence” which consisted of an 18-foot-high fence with 2,050 white fabric panels, crossing more than 24 miles in Sonoma and Marin counties in northern California and extending into the Pacific Ocean. In 1983, their project “Surrounded Islands” had pink woven polypropylene fabric floating around 11 islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. In 1985, they covered the Pont-Neuf Bridge in Paris with sand-colored fabric, which imitated the color of Paris’ pavements in sunset.
Returning to California in 1991, they installed 1,760 gigantic, custom-made yellow umbrellas along an 18-mile stretch of the Tejon Pass about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. A bi-continental project known as “The Umbrellas,” it included the installation of 1,340 blue umbrellas in Ibaraki, Japan.
In 1994, Jeanne-Claude’s name was added to her husband’s name as co-creator. She stated, “There is no longer the artist Christo. That doesn’t exist anymore We have officially changed our name, repairing a 37 year-old mistake. We feel we are old enough now to tell the truth. Now it is Christo and Jeanne-Claude.”
In 1995, they wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in more than a million square feet of silvery fabric. In 2005, came “The Gates” in which more than 7,503, 16-foot-tall vinyl gates with free-floating saffron-colored fabric panels were set up along 23 miles of walkways in New York City’s Central Park. The self-financed project cost $21 million. The exhibit was dismantled after 16 days after millions of people had seen it.
The couple maintained their artistic freedom by never accepting sponsorship. They financed all their projects through the sale of artwork, including drawings and collages of their projects. All their projects forged a community of supporters from different backgrounds as their art broke down social barriers among people.