Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence

April 2, 2010 — September 26, 2010

Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and G Streets, NW)
Media - 2009.9.18 - SAAM-2009.9.18_1 - 70302

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

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.

This exhibition is organized by George Gurney, deputy chief curator.

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.

On the Blog

Eye Level, September 3, 2008, "Up and Running with Christo and Jeanne-Claude"
Eye Level, September 11, 2008, "Fencing with Christo and Jeanne-Claude"
Eye Level, November 20, 2009, "Remembering Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009)"
Eye Level, March 30, 2010, "Picture This: Duct Tape and the Running Fence"
Eye Level, April 1, 2010, "Christo and Jeanne-Claude: On the Making of the Running Fence"
Eye Level, April 28, 2010, "Albert Maysles on Meeting - and Filming - Christo and Jeanne-Claude"
Eye Level, August 13, 2010, "Package 1961 by Christo"
Eye Level, September 20, 2010, "Remembering the Running Fence with Joe Pozzi"
Eye Level, September 24, 2010, "Drawing the Curtain on the Running Fence"
Eye Level, June 18, 2015, "Seeing Things (14): Christo at 80"

Meet the Artist


The museum commissioned a new film, The "Running Fence" Revisited, created for the exhibition by Wolfram Hissen from EstWest films. It was shown 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).


The accompanying monograph, co-published by the museum and University of California Press, was written by Brian O'Doherty with contributions from Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; Elizabeth Broun,  Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum; and Edwin Anderson, an attorney who represented the artists before Sonoma County's Board of Supervisors in the 1970s. 


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.