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Remembering Christo

Christo — the one-named artist who constructed thousands of gates in Central Park, strung a curtain across a Colorado mountain pass, and wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin — died Sunday in New York. He was 84.

He also had several connections with Westport. Ann Chernow — long active in our local arts scene — writes:

My husband Burt Chernow and I met Christo in 1970. We traveled the world with him, his wife Jeanne-Claude and his crew for each project — an army of engineers, reporters, cooks and many artists from Westport.

Burt and I worked in various capacities on 6 major projects, including The Valley  Curtain, The Running Fence, Pont Neuf in Paris, The Umbrellas in Japan and California, and the wrapping of the Reichstag (the last Burt worked on before he died). Our bedroom in Berlin, across from the Reichstag, was Joseph Goebbels’ during World War II.

During these decades Burt worked on the only authorized biography of the Christos. Christo and Jeanne-Claude was published in 1999, first in Germany and then in the US and other countries. It would take another book to write the stories of our travels with them.

When I met Martin West — a documentarian working on the history of art in Westport, the year after Burt’s death — he was brought into Christo’s fold. He filmed for them, and we both worked  on the Gates in New York City.

We became  part of their family. Christo’s death last week — not long after Martin’s this past January — was a staggering blow to me, as was Burt’s in 1997.

WestportNow publisher Gordon Joseloff took a number of photos of Christo. This was
his last one, at Christo’s final Westport Arts Center exhibition.

Westport played a large part in our relationship.  The Christos had 4 Westport exhibitions, with lectures about their work accompanying each show. One was at Greens Farms Elementary School, when it served as the Westport Arts Center. Another was at the WAC after it moved to Riverside Avenue. The others were at Bedford Middle School and the Westport Library.

These exhibitions were thronged, filled to capacity beyond the fire laws. The Christos visited Westport  several times to prepare for these, and loved this town.

We had dinners  at our house with Christo’s family, and local supporters. Helen Klisser During — a former director of the Westport Arts Center — became a fast friend of the Christos.

Many Westporters remember Christo personally. Many others admired his work. We will all miss him.

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