If you do what Christo and Jeanne-Claude do, you're going to have to talk to a public official or two.*
Christo and Jeanne-Claude are best-known for titanic-scale works including "The Gates," which triumphantly adorned New York's Central Park in 2005 (it was in the works for 26 years), and (bigger still) "Surrounded Islands," completed in 1983, in which several islands in Miami's Biscayne Bay were encircled with floating pink fabric.
Eight government entities, from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the City of North Miami, had to sign off on "Surrounded Islands" alone. (It took the artists 10 years to persuade the city of Paris to let them wrap the Pont Neuf, another famous Christo project.)
It's this side of the duo's work -- the cajoling and the lobbying, the sheer tenacity -- that the
ProjectProgram on Negotiation at Harvard Law School will be honoring next month, when it jointly gives Christo and Jeanne-Claude its 2008 Great Negotiator Award. Harvard faculty will lead a discussion between the artists and the public at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Tuesday, September 23, to mark the occasion.
How did Christo get the governor of Florida to set worries about hurricanes and the drug trade aside to consider the aesthetic ramifications of pink polypropylene fabric bought by the acre? Now you can ask.
(Christo's website, incidentally, features a marvelous "common errors" section. NB: The following sentence contains fully six mistakes, all identified if you follow this link: "Christo wrapped some islands in Florida, off the coast of Miami in Key Biscayne with pink plastic." And do not call them "conceptual artists." If I've made a mistake in this item, or you have another thought or tip, email me at email@example.com.)
*CORRECTION: This item originally said the two artists work jointly under the name Christo. That used to be the case, but they have worked as Christo and Jeanne-Claude (still no last names) since 1994.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.