Christo Vladimirov Javacheff
(Gabrovo, 1935 – New York, 2020)
Christo Vladimirov Javacheff was born in 1935 in the small town of Gabrovo, Bulgaria. His family was well-connected to the group of artists and intellectuals in the region. His mother, Tzveta Dimitrova, was a political activist and had been a secretary at the National Academy of Art in Sofia.
Christo started making art at a young age inspired by his parents' social circle, and under the encouragement of professors from the Academy. He enrolled at the National Academy of Art in 1952, where he assisted in making propaganda posters rendered in the style of Socialist Realism, the government-sanctioned method of art production.
After graduation, Christo moved to Prague, where he studied theatre design with the Burian Theatre. As the Hungarian Revolution broke out in 1956, he fled Prague, hidden in a train wagon carrying medical supplies. He arrived in Vienna having exchanged his Bulgarian citizenship for political asylum.
Christo studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, before leaving for Geneva, then Paris. He arrived in the city in 1958, where he stayed for the next six years and met his partner and collaborator, Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon.
In Paris, Christo painted portraits in the streets signed under the name 'Javacheff'. He met Jeanne-Claude through her mother, who commissioned a self-portrait. When the pair learned they were born the same time—to the hour—a partnership was quickly formed. The couple had a son in 1960 and moved to New York City four years later.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude became recognised in the 1960s, as they experimented with oil barrels made into large-scale installations. These resulted in works like Wall of Oil Barrels – The Iron Curtain (1962), in which oil barrels were stacked to block access through a street.