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The artist Jeanne-Claude, who, with her husband, Christo, was responsible for creating some of the grandest environmental installation pieces in contemporary art, died Wednesday of complications from a brain aneurysm. She was 74.
Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s best-known recent work was 2005’s The Gates, for which the artists installed more than 7,000 saffron-covered fabric panels along 23 miles of pathways in New York’s Central Park. The installation was as ephemeral as it was grand—-within two weeks, The Gates was gone. Other notable projects have included wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin, the Pont-Neuf in Paris, and several small islands off the coast of Miami. Despite the massive amount of resources needed for each project, they financed each installation independently, never dulling their ambition.
The last time the artists were seen in Washington, it was for their show one year ago at the Phillips Collection, Over the River: A Work in Progress. The exhibition detailed their plans for their next large-scale installation—this time, draping six miles of fabric over a stretch of the Arkansas River in Colorado. Neither Blake Gopnik nor Jeffry Cudlin considered the Phillips’ show a success. Said Cudlin: “If ultimately none of the drawings or collages in Over the River have the impact of great works of art—or even compose a successful series when viewed together—they nonetheless testify to extraordinary will, persistence, and fiercely independent thought on behalf of the artists. However utopian their projects sound, Christo and Jeanne-Claude are relentless careerists.”
And Gopnik: “This whole exhibition feels more like a publicity campaign for a product than like a considered investigation of an important aesthetic event.”
So what will become of “Over the River” now that the famed art duo has been halved? According to the AFP, the show will go on. Christo vowed “to honor the promise they made to each other many years ago: the art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude will continue.” “Over the River” is expected in 2013.
Photo of Jeanne-Claude and Christo by Martin Dürrschnabel/Creative Commons license