November 19, 2009
The artist Jeanne-Claude passed away last night at a New York hospital of a brain aneurysm, according to the Associated Press. She was 74.
Jeanne-Claude, also known as Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, was born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1935. She was the wife and life-long partner of the artist Christo, and their world-famous installations have delighted a generation of followers.
The pair’s 1972-1976 epic project, Running Fence—which the Smithsonian American Art Museum calls “the most lyrical and spectacular” of the artists’ works—was a white fabric and steel-pole fence that ran 24.5 miles long and stood 18 feet high. The fence ran across the properties of 59 ranchers in Sonoma and Marin Counties north of San Francisco. While the fence was just a fleeting installation that stood for a mere two weeks, its memory and its impact is still writ large across the landscape of American artistic endeavors.
Recently, in a Q&A with Smithsonian magazine’s Anika Gupta, Jeanne-Claude related the difficulty of coaxing all of the land owners into participating in the project. “I was standing in this kitchen and the rancher kept saying to me, ‘The fence has no purpose.’ So I told him, ‘A work of art needs no purpose, it is beautiful.’”
Coming next April 2 and running through September 26, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will present the exhibition, “Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76. A Documentation Exhibition.” The exhibition features all of the documentation by the artists—drawings, collages, photographs, film and other components—for the Running Fence project. According to the museum, the project required 18 public hearings, three sessions in the Superior Court of California and the first environmental impact report ever done for a work of art.
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