Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence

April 1, 2010 — September 25, 2010

Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, NW)

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence was on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. from April 2, 2010 through September 26, 2010.

Two years earlier, in 2008, the Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired the definitive record of Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76, a major early work by world-renowned artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Running Fence, the culmination of 42 months of collaborative efforts, was 24 1/2 miles long and 18 feet high, with one end dropping down to the Pacific Ocean. This monumental temporary artwork was made of 240,000 square yards of heavy woven white nylon fabric, 90 miles of steel cable, 2,050 steel poles, 350,000 hooks, and 13,000 earth anchors. Paid for entirely by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the completed Running Fence existed for only two weeks in September of 1976.

The exhibition presented the majority of individual items— more than 350 objects—from the collective archive of artworks and related materials. There were 46 original preparatory drawings and collages by Christo on display, including eight masterful, large-scale drawings, each 8 feet wide, and a 58-foot-long scale model. More than 240 photographs by Wolfgang Volz, Gianfranco Gorgoni and Harry Shunk reveal the complex process of constructing the Running Fence and the many personalities involved with the project. A sequence of 22-foot-wide high-definition images of Running Fence are projected at the exhibition entrance to convey to visitors the breadth and scale of the completed project. The exhibition also included components from the actual project, including a nylon fabric panel and steel pole that visitors can touch.

The story of Running Fence is not only a story of the inexhaustible perseverance of two artists over nearly insurmountable odds to create a temporary artwork of joy and beauty, but also the story of the people, places, and events that would become what is known as Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76. This exhibition, organized by George Gurney, deputy chief curator, tells us that story.

The museum is grateful for the honorary participation and encouragement of these distinguished Californians: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House; Senator Dianne Feinstein; Senator Barbara Boxer; Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey; Congresswoman Doris Matsui; Attorney General Jerry Brown; and Mayor Gavin Newsom and First Lady Jennifer Newsom, San Francisco.

The accompanying book, co-published by the museum and University of California Press, is written by Brian O'Doherty, artist and writer, with contributions from Elizabeth Broun, the museum's director; Edwin Anderson, an attorney who represented the artists before Sonoma County's Board of Supervisors in the 1970s; and a foreword by Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. It is for sale online.

The museum commissioned a new film, The ""Running Fence"" Revisited, created for the exhibition by Wolfram Hissen from estWest films. Hissen has documented many other projects by the artists during the past 20 years. The film recaptures the excitement and the memories of the people who recall the Running Fence, including interviews with the artists as well as some of the ranchers and their families. It was shown regularly in the exhibition galleries, as was Running Fence (1978), a film by the legendary American filmmakers Albert and David Maysles with Charlotte Zwerin, and Running Fence with Commentary (2004, Plexifilm). A DVD of The “Running Fence” Revisited is for sale for $24.95 in the museum store.

Running Fence in the News
Smithsonian magazine, June 2010, "Christo’s California Dreamin’" by Erica R. Hendry 
The Press Democrat, May 30, 2010, " Christo’s magical fence" by Pete Golis
The Art Newspaper TV, April 29, 2010, "Remembering the Running Fence
Smithsonian magazine, April 23, 2010, "Running Fence Revisited" 
BBC World News America, April 13, 2010, "Christo artwork featured in new exhibit" by Jane O'Brien
The Wall Street Journal, April 6, 2010, "A California Dream Come True" by Richard B. Woodward
The Washington Post, March 31, 2010, "Smithsonian takes a close look at Christo’s seminal ‘Running Fence’" by Jacqueline Trescott
The Press Democrat, March 31, 2010, "Smithsonian to host Running Fence tribute" by Robert Digitale
The Press Democrat, September 12, 2009, "‘Running Fence’ at 33" by Kevin McCallum

Read posts on the Museum’s blog Eye Level
April 28, 2010, Albert Maysles on Meeting—and Filming—Christo and Jeanne-Claude
April 19, 2010, Christo-Inspired Sketching Workshop
April 1, 2010, Christo and Jeanne-Claude: On the Making of the Running Fence 
March 30, 2010, Picture This: Duct Tape and the Running Fence 

Free Public Programs
Friday, April 2, 2010 at 7 p.m.; film, Running Fence Revisited (2010, estWest films); followed by a conversation with Christo and Wolfram Hissen of estWest films
Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.;  film, Running Fence (1978), directed by David and Albert Maysles with Charlotte Zwerin
Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.;  films, Christo in Paris (1986) and Christo’s Valley Curtain (1973) with guest Albert Maysles 
Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.;  film, Umbrellas (1994), directed by David and Albert Maysles 
Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 5:30 p.m.; gallery talk with Deputy Chief Curator George Gurney 
Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 5:30 p.m.; gallery talk with Conservators Helen Ingalls and Kate Maynor 
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 from 3–4:30 p.m.; Sketching: Draw and Discover! 
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 6 p.m.;  film, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, To the German People, Wrapped Reichstag 1971-1995 (1996, estWest films)
Tuesday, May 18, 2010 from 3–4:30 p.m.; Sketching: Draw and Discover!
Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 3 p.m.; Tribute to Jeanne-Claude by The Third Millennium Ensemble 
Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.; film, Islands (1986), directed by David and Albert Maysles
Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.; film, Running Fence (1978), directed by David and Albert Maysles
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 at 6 p.m.; final exhibition tour with Curator George Gurney

The Smithsonian American Art Museum appreciates the support of these generous friends who contributed to the Running Fence exhibition and book: Edwin C. and Jeanne Anderson, George W. Cogan and Fannie Allen, David C. Copley, Louis Corrigan, Tania and Tom Evans, Shelby and Frederick Gans, Goldman Fund, Agnes Gund, Marin Convention and Visitors Bureau, Nion McEvoy, Joan and Alan Mirken, Steve Oliver, Bernard Osher Foundation, Anthony Otten and Janice Kim, Jeannie Schulz, Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, Nancy Stephens and Rick Rosenthal, Roselyne Swig, and Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan.

Running Fence (Project for Sonoma and Marin Counties, State of California) - 2009.9.18 - 2a

Christo, Running Fence (Project for Sonoma and Marin Counties, State of California), 1976, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment © 1976, Christo