17 Aug
Christo and Jeane Claude's excessively (and fittingly) expensive Taschen compendium

Monstrously over-rated environmental installation artists Christo and Jeanne Claude have opted to collect their art in a massive Taschen coffee table book, which is fairly de rigueur for artists of their stature. What is not so standard, however, is the $50,000 pricetag they’re throwing on it. Seriously, $50K for a book. Obviously, the mindset that goes into such a ridiculous sum is the same sort of larger-than-life thinking and grandiose production scale (and some say hubris) that has made Christo one of the highest paid artists on Earth, but I honestly do not see what makes their art so compelling. Yes, The Gates in New York’s Central Park were massive and imposing, and the Running Fence — a 5.5 meter-high and 40 kilometer-long nylon fence (requiring 200,000 m2 of nylon fabric, 2050 steel posts and 145 km of steel cable) running through California’s Sonoma and Marin Counties into the sea — are worthy of discussion, but I look at most of their art and frankly I see a naked Emperor running around clueless and cold. IN defense of the “Art Edition” of the book, a piece of original art — a one-of-a kind collage of Over the River, Project for Arkansas River, State of Colorado or The Mastaba, Project for United Arab Emirates handmade by Christo does accompany the very limited editions numbered 1 to 6. There are also cheaper versions available sans original art (running around $1,000), but I find the whole thing a bit dubious. Still, the 754 page large-format hardcover book is exhaustively complete — it includes all of their projects, from 1958 to present day, with early drawings and hundreds of previously unpublished family photos to plans for future projects. The clamshell box and book were completely designed by Christo himself, and feature an incisive and detailed history spanning their entire oeuvre and in-depth interviews — including a transcript of the final conversation between the artists and writer/Pulitzer Prize winner/architecture critic Paul Goldberger, the last conversation that Jeanne-Claude had about her work before her death in late 2009. Originally conceived as a celebration of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 75th birthdays, this book has now become more of an homage to the late Jeanne-Claude. “Part biography, part critical analysis, part catalogue, the book has a lively text by the critic Paul Goldberger that traces both the lives and the works of an artist couple who established a category all their own: a category somewhere between conceptual art, urban planning, architecture, politics, engineering and art.” If you’re a fan of Christo and Jeanne Claude’s work, and you have $50,000 burning a hole in your wallet, then this book is a good place to start perusing.

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