The personal collection of the late husband-and-wife artist duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude, which includes their own work as well as work by artist friends and peers like Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, and Andy Warhol, will go to auction at Sotheby’s Paris this February, in advance of the wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe next fall, a public art project conceived by the couple in 1962. The pair’s collection, which filled the Howard Street townhouse where they lived and worked in New York City, spans nearly 400 lots and is estimated to garner more than $4 million, the proceeds from which will go to the artists’ estate per Christo’s will.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were born on the same day in 1935 and passed away in May 2020 and November 2009, respectively. They are best known for their intensely collaborative, multi-decade practice of creating large-scale, ephemeral environmental installations by draping immense swathes of fabric in public sites throughout the world, forging radical new possibilities for what public art could be. In addition to being free to the public, their ambitious projects were wholly self-funded, supported through the sale of sketches, models, plans, and other preparatory work.
The Sotheby’s auction includes work related to some of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s most celebrated and revelatory projects, such as “The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Project for Paris” — the pair wrapped Paris’s oldest bridge in 450,000 square feet of silky fabric in 1985 — and “The Umbrellas, Joint Project for Japan and USA,” an installation in which 3,100 umbrellas were opened in Ibaraki and California on the same day in 1991. The sale also features early pieces from the duo’s smaller-scale Package and Storefront series from the 1960s.
Many of the works in the auction are by artists in Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s circle, purchased by the pair or received as gifts or exchanges. “While Christo and Jeanne-Claude are well-known as the artists who have delighted all corners of the globe with their spectacular temporary installations, the stories of their artistic friendships have until now remained entirely private,” Sotheby’s said in a statement. “Sotheby’s sale will allow for a first glimpse of the constellation of artistic friendships and connections that surrounded them through selected works linked to Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, Claes Oldenburg, Marcel Duchamp, William Copley, Nam June Paik, and many more.”
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were close friends with Conceptual and Pop artist Claes Oldenburg, with whom they spent time at the famed Chelsea Hotel in its heyday. A plaster food sculpture that Oldenburg dedicated to Christo, “Bacon and Egg, Ice Cream and Beef” from the early 1960s, is estimated at about $49,000 to $73,000. A slashed painting dedicated to Jeanne-Claude by Argentine-Italian Spatialist Lucio Fontana, also a close friend of the couple, is another sale highlight; the 1963 “Concetto Spaziale, Attesa” has an estimate of $365,000 to $608,000.
Pop artist Andy Warhol’s name crops up several times in the auction offerings. His 1964 portrait of Jackie Kennedy, which hung salon-style alongside the Fontana painting on a wall by the couple’s kitchen, is a leading lot, valued at about $973,000 to $1.46 million. The sale also features a pair of the kitschy cookie jars that Warhol collected, which Christo and Jeanne-Claude kept atop their refrigerator. One, shaped like a bunch of bananas, is priced at a relatively palatable $365.
Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s vice chairman of global fine arts, said in a statement: “Sotheby’s auction of their personal collection will provide a unique glimpse of their personal and professional world, and we are honored to pay tribute to this internationally renowned duo, who hold a fundamental place in the history of contemporary art.” This past fall, the auction house handled the sale of another important artist’s personal collection, selling work from the estate of Keith Haring for a total of $4.6 million with a 100% sell-through rate.