Christo and Jeanne Claude’s years in Paris at the Centre Pompidou from 1 July 2020


Christo and Jeanne Claude’s years in Paris at the Centre Pompidou from 1 July 2020

From 1 July, the Centre Pompidou features a major exhibition dedicated to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s years in Paris from 1958 to 1964, and to the story of ‘The Pont-Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-1985’.
This event is also a prelude to ‘L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped’ (Project for Paris, Place de l’Étoile – Charles de Gaulle) which will be on view from 18 September 2021.

cover image: Petit cheval empaqueté [Wrapped Toy Horse],1963.
Fabric, twine, rope, toy horse on wheels, 40.6 × 50.8 × 12.7 cm
The Private collection of the late Jan van der Marck, USA
© Christo 1963. Photo © Dirk Bakker

The first section of the exhibition presents around 80 works from 1958, the year Christo and Jeanne-Claude met, until 1964 when they moved to New York. The seven years Christo lived in Paris were essential to the development of his work as an artist. Christo broke free from the boundaries of the painting, as he began wrapping everyday objects and creating temporary artworks in public spaces. He also began conceiving works of art in monumental dimensions, envisioning numerous temporary projects for the city.

The second section, ‘The Pont-Neuf Wrapped Documentation Exhibition’, retraces the period leading up to the realization of ‘The Pont-Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-1985‘ with a collection of around 300 items, including original drawings and collages, a scale model, photographs, documents, engineering studies and original components of the realized project. The exhibition also includes the screening of the film ‘Christo in Paris’ (1990) by the Maysles brothers, which documents the ten years Christo and Jeanne-Claude devoted to The Pont-Neuf Wrapped and recount the biography of this extraordinary couple who has produced some of the most spectacular works of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Empaquetages [Packages]
The precise timeline of Christo’s artistic practice in Paris is not always easy to establish. Regarding his Empaquetages [Packages], he mostly developed them from 1960 onwards. However the premise of this work probably dates back to the artist’s stay in Geneva before his arrival in Paris and one of the first packages shown in the exhibition, made of paper, is dated 1958.
Christo later chose to wrap objects with fabric, which would be wrinkled, then coated with lacquer. He then experimented with raw fabric but without abandoning his previous research. The artist focused his attention on the relationship between various textures and on the play of materials – the fabric’s shininess or matte quality –, its silkiness or roughness, and its color, often faded. The rope and string were also very carefully chosen.


Empaquetage [Package],1961.
Fabric, string, cord and various objects on panel, 47.5 × 42.5 × 22.8 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection, 1999.4.1
© Christo 1961. Photo © National Gallery of Art, Washington, NGA Images

Christo in Paris. A film by Albert and David Maysles – 1990
Brothers Albert and David Maysles (1926-2015 and 1931-1987) accompanied Christo and Jeanne-Claude from the 1970s onwards to film without concession all the stages in the development of many of their projects. Their “forthright cinema”, which earned them a major place in the history of the filmed document, made it possible to immortalize either the most spectacular and trivial moments of the in-progress projects. One of their major works, Christo in Paris, is presented at the heart of the exhibition. Completed in 1990, the film tells the adventure of the packaging process of the Pont-Neuf from its beginnings, by mixing in the biographical story of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, which allows the viewer to enter the life of the duo at which we owe extraordinary achievements.


Christo in Paris,1990
Directors: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Deborah Dickson, and Susan Froemke
16 mm, color, sound, 58 minutes
© Maysles Films, Inc

The Pont-Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975 – 1985. Documentation Exhibition
The second section of the show is dedicated to the story of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s major urban project for Paris. The Pont-Neuf Wrapped Documentation Exhibition is a collection of 337 items, including 36 original drawings and collages, one large scale model, original archival documents, engineering components, and about two hundred photographs by Wolfgang Volz.
As early as 1975, Christo and Jeanne-Claude developed the idea of wrapping the Pont-Neuf using golden sandstone polyamide to cover the sides, the 12 arches, parapets, borders, and pavements (visitors would walk on the fabric), the 44 lamp-posts, the vertical sides of the central island, at the tip of the Île de la Cité and the Esplanade du Vert-Galant. “For more than 400 years the Pont-Neuf has been the subject of hundreds of works of art”, Christo says. “When it was wrapped, for two weeks, it became a work of art itself.
Following Jacques Callot, Turner, Renoir, Brassaï, Pissarro, Picasso, and Marquet, Christo and Jeanne-Claude added a new chapter to the history of the Parisian bridge. The temporary work of art was deeply connected to the urban fabric and real life of the city. It emphasized the architectural structure of the bridge, and provided a new approach to its dimension, its relationship to the surroundings, its function, and the way we interact with it. Like all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s temporary works, The Pont-Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-1985, was on view for a very short time (from September 22nd to October 6th, 1985), and required substantial technical and human resources, following ten years of negotiations with both local politicians and residents.

The exhibition ‘Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Paris!’ is curated by Sophie Duplaix.


The Pont-Neuf Wrapped (Project for Paris)
Drawing, 1985
Pencil, pastel, charcoal, wax crayon, ink prints and glue on paper mounted on cardboard
Diptych: 38 × 244 cm and 106.6 × 244 cm / Collection of the artist / © Christo 1985 /
Photo © Philippe Migeat


The Pont-Neuf Wrapped (Project for Paris)
Scale model of the project, 1981-1991
View of the model of The Pont-Neuf Wrapped and its presentation in La Samaritaine’s shop window, Paris, October 1981. Wood, fabric, wire, synthetic foam, Plexiglas, staples and glue / 82 × 611 × 478 cm / © Christo 1981 / Photo © All rights reserved.


Climbers attach the fabric hoisted under one of the arches and adjust the tension of the straps sewn onto the fabric, making it hug the lines of the vault [September 16-22, 1985].
© Christo 1985 / Photo © Wolfgang Volz


The Pont-Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-1985
© Christo 1985
Photo © Wolfgang Volz

Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Paris!
From 1 July until 19 October 2020
Centre Pompidou – Place Georges Pompidou, 75000 Paris
(Gallery 2, Level 6 )

Images courtesy of Centre Pompidou 

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