Christo, artist behind umbrellas project in Tejon Pass, dies

Christo and Jeanne-Claude's 'The Umbrellas Japan-USA' installation mountainsides in the Tejon Pass from Gorman in 1991. Photo by Wolfgang Volz via scvhistory.com
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Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, known for his environmental art pieces such as “The Umbrellas Japan-USA” installation in the Tejon Pass, died Sunday. 

The 84-year-old, recognized worldwide by his first name, died in his New York City home, according to a statement released on the official Twitter account of Christo and his wife and artist, Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon. The cause of death was not provided. Christo’s wife, who worked with him, died in 2009. 

Christo is survived by his son Cyril Christo. 

The artists’ work is well known for their ambition in covering giant landmarks with fabric, only to disappear soon after their installations. Some of the most iconic public art projects include the 1985 wrapping of Pont Neuf, where the couple used 450,000 square feet of woven polyamide fabric to cover Paris’ oldest bridge. In 1995, Berlin’s Reichstag was wrapped with an aluminum sheen, and in 2005, New York’s Central Park saw 7,500 vinyl gates installed. 

And in 1991, Santa Clarita Valley residents, among other spectators, had the chance to view “The Umbrellas” before its disassembly. 

The project was simultaneously installed in the Tejon Pass-Gorman area with 1,760 large golden umbrellas, and 1,340 blue ones in Ibaraki, a Japanese prefecture located 75 miles north of Tokyo. 

The $26 million art project was intended to last 21 days, but lasted only 18, after Lor Mae Matthew, 33, of Camarillo, died when one of the umbrellas was ripped from its mooring due to windy conditions in the Tejon Pass and crushed her against a boulder, according to scvhistory.com. The artists ordered the removal of the installation in both locations. 

Their current projects are expected to continue well after their deaths, according to the statement. 

“Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always made clear that their artworks in progress be continued after their deaths. L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris) is still on track for Sept. 18-Oct. 3, 2021,” read the statement. 

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