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Lucy Wills - 01 Jun 2020
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Circa 1984, on a school trip, we attended a public lecture Cristo was giving at the Tate. I didn’t know that much about their work before, but was so taken by it.

This wasn't just because of the ambition and spectacle of the work, but because it was so thoughtful, and every part of the process was considered, and somehow, complete.

My recall of the exchange is not perfect, so I’ll paraphrase,

I asked him, "So what is more important to you, the making of the art, or the planning? And what happens to the material afterwards?"

"Good question" He said "To us, the planning is as much of the art as the finished result. Not only do we rely on sales of the preliminary drawings to fund the work, but the negotiating, getting permission, etc takes years and this is art too"

He gave an example, Japan, for the then upcoming 'The Umbrellas', I think.)

"And I could not do this part without my wife – she opens doors, and people will listen to her when they would not listen to me. I regret she is not here with me today.”

So, when Jean-Claude is described as his "creative muse and business partner" as in the obit below, I think that missing a trick. Christo was indeed collaborating with the world on a massive scale, but to me his closest collaboration was with his wife.

It's why they preferred to be called Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

"The materials we use?" he said, "They are open weave textiles, and are shipped to the Third World (sic) to be used in agriculture to block weeds and the like"

Not quite cradle to cradle, but making the work less decadent, more human, more kind. An environmental artist, working with landscape, architecture, people and nature.

They clear up these and other misconceptions on their website, here. All of the works are documented there too.

Thank you for caring about the small things,  Christo and Jean-Claude. I wish I could have met you both.

And thank you for being so kind to a curious precocious 14-year-old, who is still thinking and working in systems. And asking good questions.

Thank you.

BBC Obituary

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