the world-famous wrap artist, is coming to the Museum of Contemporary Art San
Diego in La Jolla on Feb. 1. He won't be doing any wrapping here, but he will
give a lecture before the opening of an impressive exhibit of his works, mostly
from the collection of the late David Copley.
who died in 2012, inherited the newspaper chain founded by his adoptive father,
James Copley, and was publisher of the San
Diego Union-Tribune from 1997 to 2009. A longtime La Jollan, he was a
generous booster of the arts, one of MCASD’s most valued trustees and patrons,
and the most prolific collector of Christo’s work in the country.
honor his life and legacy, the museum is presenting “X-TO+J-C,” a showing of
more than 50 pieces from Christo’s 50-year collaboration with his wife,
Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009.
born in Bulgaria, and Jeanne-Claude, born in Morocco, met in Paris in their
early 20s, and discovered that they shared, besides a taste for public art, the
same birthday: June 13, 1935.
huge-scale projects, like “Wrapped Reichstag” installed in Berlin (1971-95) and
the bright-orange “The Gates,” which transformed New York’s Central Park
(1979-2005), involved decades of elaborate planning followed by months of
trouble-fraught installation. The works originally appeared under Christo’s name
alone, but were subsequently credited to both Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
Together, they changed the way people looked at familiar objects and
to Jill Dawsey, MCASD’s associate curator, who helped organize the exhibit,
Christo started out as a society portrait painter, in Paris.
was his day job, and Jeanne-Claude’s family commissioned him to do her portrait.
From the beginning, she helped conceive and execute the works, but the drawings
were all his,” Dawsey said. “The draughtsmanship, the technique, of the drawings
is incredible, and many of them incorporate maps, data and photos. They were
used to sell the work, to convince potential patrons that the idea was worth
includes many drawings and collages, and several wrapped pieces, among them an
early portrait of Jeanne-Claude. Two of the pieces were donated by Christo, in
honor of Copley, his patron and friend of so many years. But most of the works
are from Copley’s collection.
work he collected represents all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s major pieces,”
Dawsey said. “So it’s a very good overview of their career, and it shows the
breadth of what they did over the decades, not just the wrapping, but everything
artists today enjoy Christo’s level of popularity, and fewer still are known by
their first name alone.
does make him seem more of a rock star,” Dawsey said. “Despite the controversial
nature of many of the large-scale works (two people were killed during 1991’s
installation and removal of “The Umbrellas” in the California desert), they’re
seen by millions of people, and the interesting thing is: they’re temporary.
They take years and years to realize, and they’re only on view for a matter of
big exception is the Abu Dhabi Mastaba, one of the works-in-progress Christo
will describe in his lecture.
conceived in 1977, this will be his first large-scale, permanent project. Made
from 410,000 multi-colored oil barrels, it will be the world’s largest
sculpture. It will also bring Christo’s career full-circle, since one of the
earliest projects he did with Jeanne-Claude was a barricade of oil barrels,
blocking a narrow Paris street.
will also talk about another work-in-progress, a project for the Arkansas River
in Colorado. Conceived in 1992, it is finally close to being approved.
will be fascinating to hear about all the negotiations behind the works, because
that’s part of the works themselves,” Dawsey said. “The pieces reveal the
physical world around us in a new way, but the complicated negotiations reveal
the hidden mechanisms of how society actually works.”
Davies, director/CEO of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, talked to La
Jolla Light recently about the Copley-Christo connection. Davies’ MCASD
directorship was endowed by David Copley in 1998.
was special about David was that he was so much more than just a collector; he
was a true patron of artists, and a longtime friend of Christo and
Jeanne-Claude. He first met them in the late 1970s, and continued that
friendship till the day he died.
passion for their work gave him the greatest pleasure, and I was fortunate to be
able to share that pleasure. We’d fly out to the trial sites of their projects,
where they’d be testing their materials and designs, and we’d spend the day,
have lunch with them, and give ourselves a chance to see the world through
Christo’s eyes. Many collectors are just passive accumulators of transferable
goods, but not David; he had a real rapport with artists, and was always there,
with admiration and support for their work.”
Portrait of David Copley' 2006, by Christo
Christo and Jeanne-Claude Featuring Works from the Bequest of David C.
2-April 6, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursdays-Tuesdays; to 7 p.m. third
of Contemporary Art San Diego,
700 Prospect St., La Jolla
free 5-7 p.m. third Thursdays, and to members
Screening: 3-5 p.m. March 1. ‘Umbrellas’ (1994), a documentary by noted
filmmakers Albert and David Maysles that follows Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s
two-color, two-country installation of umbrellas in Japan and California