Christo and Jeanne Claude: A legacy at FSW

By Fiona English

At our Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, in the Humanities Hall of our Lee campus, lies a gem: artwork. The Bob Rauschenberg Gallery has exhibited countless art exhibitions, live shows, and artists from all over the world since its inception. Today, however, I was fortunate to gaze upon the Christo and Jeanne Claude in the Tom Golden Collection and speak with gallery director and curator, Jade Dellinger who has been featured before in the Compass.

Many do not know the names of Christo and Jeanne Claude; that is if you’re not well versed in art. Christo and Jeanne Claude were innovators of the art world and brought dreams into reality. Many of the early works that Christo created had brought the art movement Conceptualism into reality. Beginning in the 1960s, Conceptualism took the form of changing everyday objects into something that wasn’t typical or traditional; defying the normal aesthetic of the object itself. As early as 1958, Christo had begun changing everyday objects by wrapping them in material or placing them in strange ways. That same year, Christo would meet Jeanne Claude and fall in love, and the pair would impact visual art in more ways than one. 

“Christo and Jeanne Claude really brought these dreams into reality,” said Jade Dellinger, art gallery curator and director, “and like a dream, the [exhibits] were only up for a short period of time. People would come to see these exhibits from all over the world and experience these dreams.” These dreams, as Jade Dellinger puts it, were part of the art itself. When approaching art we often think of long lasting, preserved fine art seen in museums everywhere. By changing all mediums involved with the art, the canvas, the tools, and the ‘paints’, Christo and Jeanne Claude changed art and expanded it away from the canvas and paintbrush. 

“One of the greatest impacts they made was making a temporary, short-lived experience that changed how we viewed that everyday thing. It was like wrapped Christmas presents”, Dellinger remarked, “you can shake it and kind of guess what it is by looking at it but your perspective is changed when it’s finally unwrapped. You wouldn’t think about the gift being wrapped either but since you’ve seen it wrapped that’s how you think of it when you look it.”

The Wrapped Reichstag was one of these “wrapped christmas presents”; quite literally. The Wrapped Reichstag was one of the more controversial exhibits Christo and Jeanne Claude produced. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the wrapping of the Reichstag building symbolized a unified Germany and the unity of Berlin as a city of Germany. But many were split on it’s meaning as the Reichstag was a catalyst for the Nazi party.

The Surrounded Islands exhibit of Miami Beach was also fraught with controversy, this time, over environmental concerns. The exhibit consisted of 6.5 million square feet of pink polypropylene fabric a worry for environmentalists on the neighboring osprey and eagle population. However, this project was led by several teams before its birth, including marine biologists, ornithologists, and mammal experts to ensure the safety of the animals and surrounding environment.

Christo and Jeanne Claude left significant impacts on the art world and changed how audiences and artists viewed art today. Their legacy, artwork, and impacts became a hallmark and experience in the minds of many. Part of that legacy was showcased here at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery; becoming a ‘re-experience’ for many.

For more information on the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery and Jade Dellinger, check out our past article on the gallery.

Fiona English

Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Compass

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