Born: 13 June 1935
Died: 18 November 2009 (complications from a brain aneurysm)
Birthplace: Casablanca, Morocco
Best known as: The wife and creative partner of the avant-garde artist Christo
Name at birth: Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon
Together with her husband Christo, the artist Jeanne-Claude created some of the biggest, craziest, and most-discussed art installations of the 20th century. Their best-known work may be Running Fence, an 18-foot-high white fabric fence installed across nearly 25 miles of Northern California hills and farmland in 1976. Jeanne-Claude was born in Casablanca to a French military family and earned a degree in Latin and Philosophy from the University of Tunis in 1952. She met Christo in Paris in 1958 and they began making art together almost immediately. In the 1960s they were known for their impulse to wrap objects, from oil barrels on the docks of Cologne (1961) to a fountain in Italy (1968) to an entire art museum building (the Kunsthalle) in Bern, Switzerland in 1968. Running Fence brought them a wider audience, along with a mix of praise and insults from critics. Their other works included dotting the Japanese countryside with umbrellas ("Umbrellas," 1991), wrapping the Reichstag building in Berlin (1995), and hanging orange fabric panels throughout New York's Central Park ("The Gates," 2005). While Christo was the public face for the art, he always insisted that he and Jeanne-Claude were equal collaborators on their works, and in the 1990s they retroactively declared all their works to be co-creations.
Extra credit: Christo and Jeanne-Claude were born on the exact same day: 13 June 1935... They had one child, a son named Cyril, born on 11 May 1960. Cyril is a published poet... In later years Jeanne-Claude dyed her hair bright red; she once joked that the stresses of wrapping the Reichstag turned Christo's hair gray and hers red... Jeanne-Claude married Philippe Planchon in August of 1959, about 10 months after meeting Christo; the couple separated shortly after the honeymoon, and Jeanne-Claude became pregnant with Cyril the same month.
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