Artist Christo

C. Ellington of Quincy, Mass., asks, 'Whatever happened to...?'

A wall of oil drums or a giant curtain draped across a valley may not be everyone's idea of "art." But it is to Christo and his admirers. Born Christo Javacheff in Bulgaria, he rose to fame with his massive "monument" pieces.

"The work is designed to get people to question, to think, 'What is art?' " Christo told the Monitor in a rare interview in 1990. "We need to be confronted with something that happens once in our lives.'

It is often a Herculean task. From 1980 to 1983, he and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, worked to surround islands in Florida's Biscayne Bay with pink "skirts." It took a crew of 430 and 6.5 million square feet of fabric.

From 1975 to 1985, the couple worked on wrapping the Pont Neuf in Paris in a golden-colored polyamide fabric. And in Berlin, in 1995, they completed swathing the Reichstag with more than 1 million square feet of silvery, woven polypropylene.

"Christo and Jeanne-Claude" (which is the artist's official name since he changed it in 1994) are now at work on two projects. They want to erect 15-foot-high frames from which panels of fabric will hang in New York's Central Park. They also want to suspend fabric panels along a stretch of the Arkansas River. Steel cables secured on the riverbanks will suspend the material over the water. The soonest either project will be completed is 2003.

If you wonder 'Whatever happened to...' write us at: One Norway Street,

Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail: whatever@csmonitor.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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