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MOMA Film series on artists coincides with NY project


The husband-and-wife team of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whose distinctive art pieces include the wrapping in fabric of such architectural icons as the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris, are coming to New York in February with their latest fantasy art project. The couple will transform New York’s Central Park into a fairyland of saffron-colored covered objects and archway gates. It is among the most audacious and controversial public artwork projects in the city’s history.

To celebrate this artistic milestone, the newly reopened Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) will present a nine film series that chronicles the work of the artist team, who have worked on a series of audacious and ambitious projects on a grand scale since 1967.

These large-scale public artworks address the tension between natural and manmade landscapes and have captured the popular imagination whenever presented. Each project would be on view for only 2 to 3 weeks, so the record of the planning of the projects, which involves the extensive coordination of contractors, lawyers, engineering teams, and scores of workers, is its most lasting testament.

The artists often employed filmmakers to document several of their most famous projects, from first sketches to realized object. The resulting collection of films offers a passionate testimony to the visual wonder of these otherwise ephemeral creations.

The MOMA series includes the American films Wrapped Coast (1969, director: Michael Blackwood), a documentary short on the artists’ audacious project to cover a mile-and-a-half of waterfront cliffs just outside of Sydney, Australia; Christo's Valley Curtain (1974, directors: Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Ellen Giffard), a high-wire effort to hang a giant sheet of fabric between two Colorado peaks; Running Fence (1978, directors: Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin), a chronicle of the ardurous task of creating a twenty-four-mile fabric fence in the California hills; and Islands (1986, directors: Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin), a breathtaking chronicle of the artists’ ambitious plan to swathe eleven islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with mile after mile of sensuous pink fabric.

European films in the series include Christo in Paris (1990), which follows the artist pair as they negotiate bureaucratic obstacles to their plans for wrapping the city's oldest bridge, the Pont Neuf, in gold fabric; Dem Deutschen Volke (1996, The Wrapped Reichstag), detailing the artists’ triumphant realization of a decades-old dream of covering the Berlin Reichstag in fabric; and Wrapped Trees (1998-99), a meditative study of the artists’ covering of 178 trees in Riehen, Switzerland, with a wintertime blanket of brilliantly colored fabric.

These landmark public artworks, which were conceived through sheer force of will, and only existed for a tantalizingly brief moment of time, are forever chronicled in the excellent group of documentaries that MOMA has assembled. It is a fitting tribute to the spirit of these unique artists as they transform one of New York’s most beloved and visited attractions.

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor

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