Sotheby’s Honors the Work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Shreeya Maskey
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Active since the 1960s, Christo and Jeanne-Claude are remembered for their outdoor sculpture installations made of fabric and plastic. Following Christo’s death in late May of 2020, several works from the artist duo are coming to auction on February 17th, 2021 with Sotheby’s Paris. These works offer a rare opportunity to explore the artists’ vision and style. The sale is estimated to bring in a total of USD 4 million.

“Earlier this year, we lost one of the giants of contemporary art,” said Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s Vice Chairman of Fine Arts in New York. “Together with his partner Jeanne-Claude, Christo changed the visual language of art in a way that no other artist has done before, transforming the public’s perspective and expectations of what art can be and how it can be experienced.”

Christo & Jeanne Claude with Four Store Fronts Corner, 1964-65. Image from Sotheby’s.
Christo & Jeanne Claude with Four Store Fronts Corner, 1964-65. Image from Sotheby’s.

After Christo’s exile to Paris, he began working as a portrait artist to earn a living. In 1958, he was commissioned to paint Jeanne-Claude’s mother. This was the first time Christo met his future wife and artistic partner, Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon. In the following years, Christo and Jeanne-Claude spent most of their time working on small-scale projects together. 

It was only in their later career that Christo and Jeanne-Claude began experimenting with wrapping. They sought to embrace the most basic features and proportions of an object by draping it in fabric or plastic. These massive and ephemeral installations went on to define their artistic style and output, earning the duo international acclaim.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The Umbrellas, Japan-USA, 1984-91. Image from Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s website.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The Umbrellas, Japan-USA, 1984-91. Image from Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s website.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude frequently pushed the limitations of traditional art, helping develop a new style that went beyond the canvas. Among their notable large-scale installations was The Umbrellas, Joint Project for Japan and USA (1991), where 3,100 umbrellas were opened in Ibaraki and California. The installation, like many of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s works, only lasted for a few days. The upcoming Sotheby’s auction features works related to this project.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Project for Paris. Image from Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s website.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude. The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Project for Paris. Image from Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s website.

On September 22nd, 1985, approximately 450,000 square feet of woven polyamide fabric covered the Pont Neuf, the oldest standing bridge in Paris. This artwork drew attention to the details of the Rococo-style bridge, which has joined the river banks and the Île de la Cité for over four centuries. Works from this celebrated public project will also be included in the February sale.

Describing the nature of their work, Artsper writes, “Once covered, even the most familiar objects become something else. Ultimately, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Wrappings reveal the essence of the object.”

Beyond Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the event also includes items from famous artists in the couple’s social circle. Andy Warhol’s 1964 portrait of Jackie Kennedy will appear alongside works from Gerrit Rietveld, William Copley, and Yves Klein. The auction will begin on February 17th, 2021 at 12:00 PM EST. For more information on the auction and to place a bid, visit Sotheby’s.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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