Big art, big ideas

Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude - known for wrapping a Parisian bridge and the Reichstag - tour Alaska

Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2001

When Julie and Don Decker of Anchorage made a list of some of the biggest living names in contemporary art to invite to Alaska, Christo and Jeanne-Claude were at the top.

"I made the plea that we're isolated and they could make a big impact in a short time," Julie Decker said.

The artists, who accepted the invitation, have years of experience in making a big impact. Best known for large-scale, temporary environmental art, the husband and wife team surrounded 11 uninhabited Florida islands with pink fabric in 1983, wrapped the Pont Neuf (bridge) in Paris in 1985, installed 3,100 umbrellas in the countryside of Japan and California in 1991 and wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in 1995.


Recent work: The Wall, a 1999 work by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, is comprised of 13,000 oil barrels.


Christo and Jeanne-Claude live in New York City and are visiting Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau this week on a lecture tour. They will answer questions, discuss upcoming projects and show slides at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in Juneau. A reception at the Governor's House is scheduled before the lecture.

Artist Don Decker of Anchorage said Christo and Jeanne-Claude are legendary figures in contemporary art history.

"It's important in terms of uniqueness and having a grand idea and being able to carry it out," he said. "There are so many obstacles: political, environmental, financial."

His daughter Julie Decker is a curator, designer and writer from Anchorage. After 40 years, it's unusual that people still regard Christo and Jeanne-Claude as cutting-edge, she said.

"They're remarkable in that how many people have household names in contemporary art? Like it or hate it, they've heard (of them)," she said.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude now are working on two projects, "Over the River," in which they plan to suspend fabric panels over the Arkansas River in Colorado, and "The Gates" for Central Park in New York City.


Creative duo: Christo and Jeanne-Claude will be in Juneau on Friday to talk about their work.


The artists fund the projects by selling preparatory drawings, scale models, collages and original lithographs. They don't accept commissions, grants, sponsors or volunteer help. Their work features elements of painting, sculpture, architecture and urban planning, according to their Web site (

The nonprofit International Gallery of Contemporary Art and the Decker/Morris Gallery in Anchorage are sponsoring the tour, with support from the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and the Southeast Section of the Alaska Design Forum.

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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