Up and Running with Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972–76 Segment 1, © Christo, 1976,  Photo by Wolfgang Volz

In the mid 1970s, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, whose outdoor sculptural works of art have captivated us for years, created their epic project, Running Fence, in northern California. We’re excited that Christo and Jeanne-Claude will be at the Museum Saturday afternoon. They’re coming to talk about the project, following a 3 p.m. screening of the 1978 film, Running Fence by the critically acclaimed filmmakers David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin, and Albert Maysles. The film depicts the artists' four-year struggle to get Running Fence off the ground.

The white fabric and steel-pole fence 24 1/2 miles long and 18 feet high, was installed across the properties of 59 ranchers in Sonoma and Marin Counties north of San Francisco. Running Fence existed for only two weeks, but it survives through artworks, documentation by the artists, books, and a film.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has just acquired Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972–76, A Documentation Exhibition, which celebrates the acclaimed installation and includes nearly 50 original drawings and collages made by Christo in preparation for the work’s installation. This archive also includes a 68-foot scale model; more than 240 photographs by Wolfgang Volz in color and black-and-white; the film by the Maysleses and Zwerin; documents; 243 color slides; original components, including one of the 2,050 nylon fabric panels; a 21-foot steel pole 3 1/2 inches in diameter, with steel cables and guy wires; one of the 13,000 specially designed anchors; and a few of the 350,000 hanging hooks. The big news is that this is the first major Christo and Jeanne-Claude complete project archive to be acquired by a museum anywhere.

In 2010 the museum will launch an insightful retrospective, Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972–76, A Documentation Exhibition, which will tour nationally following its opening in D.C.