Christo onstage at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, before the opening of his exhibition, “X-TO+JC” Photo by Maurice Hewitt
There was a full house at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla’s Sherwood Auditorium on the evening of Feb. 1, 2014 when Christo came onstage for a lecture/slide show about his 50-plus years of grand-scale public art. Some of the crowd had been standing in line for hours, hoping for no-shows’ seats.
The hour and a half of fascinating words and pictures by the man who wrapped the Reichstag, hung The Gates in Central Park, and is now creating an oil-drum Mastaba in Abu Dhabi that is taller than Egypt’s Great Pyramid ended in a standing ovation. An audience member called the evening “one of the high points of my life!”
The occasion was the opening of the exhibit “X-TO+JC,” which MCASD Director Hugh Davies referred to in his introduction as “the largest collection of Christo’s work west of the Potomac,” since only the Smithsonian’s in Washington, D.C. is (slightly) larger.
At the start of his presentation, Christo apologized for his accent and said that his late wife and collaborator, Jeanne-Claude, had always given lectures like these and he wasn’t as good at them. But in a house full of fans, with his witty style and copious supply of inside stories about the process and politics of creating his ephemeral artworks, he was a palpable hit. After the talk, he took questions from the audience, answering with grace and humor. At 78.5 years old, he is still going strong.
“These projects are temporary works of art. They are unique, irreplaceable moments,” he said. “And they do not belong to us. Nobody can own them or charge to see them. That’s freedom.”
His last words of the night: “I don’t think about my art, I think about my life. Art is not my profession, it’s my life! I live art!”
Later, he graciously indulged audience members by posing for photos with them and giving autographs. Oh, yes … and the exhibit was impressive, too.
• COMING UP: A screening of the documentary, “Umbrellas” (1994), will explore Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s expansive installation “The Umbrellas” (1984-1991), 3-5 p.m., Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Sherwood Auditorium, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 700 Prospect St., La Jolla. Free for museum members and students, $5 for seniors and $8 general admission.
— THE WRAP UP: Facts from Christo’s Talk at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, Feb. 1, 2014 —
• Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, immigrated to New York City from Paris, and he has been living and working in the same six-story building since 1968.
• Each project involves decades of meetings, government reports, negotiations, and often, refusals, before the work is approved, and many months of secret site, fabric and weather tests before installation of ‘the real thing.’
• All costs of the projects are financed by the sale of Christo’s preparatory studies, drawings and collage to interested collectors.
• He rents each project site for the duration of the installation (usually two weeks) prohibiting performances in the area around it. The cost can be several million dollars. When the project is over, having been seen by millions of people, it is completely disassembled and recycled.
• Lifetime Stats: 22 projects fully realized; 37-plus failed to get final approval.
|Patti and Coop Cooprider at the lecture Photo by Maurice Hewitt|