After the May 31, 2020, death of the artist Christo, known for large-scale public works like The Floating Piers and Surrounded Islands, created with his late wife and partner Jeanne-Claude, TIME asked artists to reflect on his impact and legacy.
JR: Christo’s Work Asked Us to Find Our Own Way to ‘Why’
When I first saw Christo’s work, I thought, “What is this? He’s just wrapping things up? Why?” But I soon realized that is exactly the kind of confrontation you want with art: trying to make your own way to the actual answer to the question of why. To me, that’s what his work provokes.
Especially after I learned that Christo and Jeanne-Claude, his wife and artistic partner who died in 2009, stayed away from working with brands and self-financed many of their projects, I loved to be compared to him. When I had the chance to meet Christo—who died May 31 at 84—in New York City at his studio, I remember how focused he was. I loved being around his energy, and the time he gave me was everything to me. He told me that his projects existed through his conversations about them with others; that’s what mattered so much to him.
I think people should remember him for his vision, which went on for decades, and take inspiration from the dedication he and Jeanne-Claude showed to their work.
Olafur Eliasson: Christo and Jeanne-Claude ‘Re-Humanized Our Surroundings’
In 1995, I experienced the Reichstag in the process of being clad. Even though Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art was familiar to me from books, I found their one-to-one scale work with the city of Berlin utterly compelling. Their use of real life as a canvas for artistic statement-making was incredibly inspiring and liberating. It emphasized the possibility of public space as a place that everyone co-owns and co-creates with their gaze and their engagement. A building as iconic as the Reichstag, anchored solidly in the complexity of the German history, was reframed and, for me, became a contemporary building — as if the colossal had suddenly been allowed to travel through time to meet up with me today.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude re-humanized our surroundings by exposing them to us. In their artistic work, we not only meet up with the artwork: we also meet up with ourselves. Christo will be missed.
A portion of this story appears in the June 15, 2020, issue of TIME