Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s ‘Ephemeral Nature’ show unravels the duo’s enduring legacy

Unseen sketches and photography offer a new perspective on their iconic projects

A new Colorado exhibition on the artist duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude unpacks their artistic legacy by exploring some of their legendary ephemeral creations.

Aspen’s Hexton Gallery is hosting the Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Ephemeral Nature show to mark the 50th anniversary of their Valley Curtain artwork in Colorado. It features never-seen-before original drawings, collages, photography, and wrapped objects from their private collection and covers six of their most important environmental projects staged or proposed in the US.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Umbrellas, Japan—USA, 1984-91 (1) by Wolfgang Volz © Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude – who passed away in 2020 and 2009, respectively – are known for their temporary, large-scale wrappings of iconic public monuments, including Berlin’s Reichstag, and environmental spaces, which offered ‘revelation through concealment’. Their massive, site-specific projects, many of which took several years to complete, gained them legendary status.

Ephemeral Nature highlights their 1972 V’alley Curtain’ artwork, which saw an orange curtain of fabric span the width of a highway in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. There are vibrant fabric and drawing collages and photography documenting its construction processes, which illustrates the scale of the project. ‘Valley Curtain’ came and went in just 24 hours due to adverse wind conditions.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s works ‘changed the everyday physical environment temporarily to make us look at it in a different way,’ says Hexton Gallery founder Bob Chase. His show is in collaboration with the Aspen Institute and the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation. ‘[The artists] had to navigate government policy roadblocks and keep projects moving forward. Sometimes the stars aligned and they could be executed properly,’ he adds.

The Aspen exhibition also gives insight into the unrealised Over The River project, which planned to drape nearly 6 miles of Arkansas River in Colorado with shimmering cloth, as well as ‘The Umbrellas (Joint Project for Japan and USA)’, which was made in 1989. In addition, there is a lovely personal piece comprising a wrapped bouquet of flowers, which Christo gave Jeanne-Claude as a gift and is in pristine condition.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Ephemeral Nature runs from 1 August 2022 to 15 September 15 2022

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: The Umbrellas, Japan—USA, 1984-91 by Wolfgang Volz © Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation.
Christo in his New York Studio. Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 2004 Christo and Jeanne Claude Foundation.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude at the Arkansas River in Colorado, 1999, the proposed site for Over The River, Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado. Photo/ Wolfgang Volz © Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation.

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