Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Art by the Yard


Husband-and-wife sculptors Christo and Jeanne-Claude, known for wrapping up huge landmarks in colorful cloth and other media (the white cliffs of Dover, the Reichstag in Berlin, the Pont Neuf in Paris, "the Gates" in New York City's Central Park), were both born on this day -- respectively, Christo Javacheff in 1935 in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, in the very same year in Casablanca, Morocco.

One of their large-scale pieces resulted in mortal tragedy: their Umbrellas (1991, consisting of thousands of heavy blue and yellow umbrellas installed along 12 miles of coastline in Japan and 15 miles of coastline in California) killed one person in California when one of the umbrellas got loose from its moorings in a freak windstorm, and in Japan a maintenance worker was electrocuted while dismantling the project when he touched high power lines with one of the metallic umbrella shafts.

Jon Stewart: Is [The Gates] great art?
Stephen Colbert: Yes, Jon, because like all great art, it challenges what we thought we knew about the world. For instance, I used to think $21 million could be used to achieve something noble, like, uh, I don't know, build a hospital wing. But "The Gates" has forced me to re-contextualize my notion of what $21 million can be used for -- in this case, redecorating a bike path.
--The Daily Show, Feb. 14, 2005.

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