This past Monday, members of the NYUAD community, along with local guests, flocked to Abu Dhabi's Intercontinental Hotel for an NYUAD Institute-hosted lecture by world-renowned artist Christo, whose innovative and controversial (due to its large scale) artwork in collaboration with his late wife Jeanne-Claude has been attracting much attention over the last half a century.
During the presentation the artist talked about his collaborative work with Jeanne-Claude and the history around some of their projects. Through narrative and images from his personal archive, Christo brought to life some of their most famous installations, such as The Gates in New York City's Central Park, Wrapped Reichstag in Berlin, and The Umbrellas, which was exhibited simultaneously in Japan and California. Christo also discussed his future project, Over the River, a temporary work of art in which 5.9 miles of silvery, luminous fabric panels will be suspended high above a 42-mile stretch of the Arkansas River in south-central Colorado. The audience applauded the news that a permit for the project was recently approved by the US government — Christo now hopes to exhibit the artwork for two consecutive weeks in August 2014.
"I was interested to hear Christo's lecture because I find his perspective on art controversial, but interesting and definitely very influential in modern art," said Lucas Hansen (NYUAD '14), one of the many students who attended the event. "I was really impressed that so many people came to the event — some of the students even had to sit on the floor because there was no space left!" noted Tine Paulsen (NYUAD '14).
Christo also made an important announcement for the youth art scene in the UAE: the couple's foundation will award an annual grant to art students from the UAE for the completion of an art project that wins a competition organized by the foundation. "This scholarship is very important for the burgeoning of the art scene in Abu Dhabi," Christo said. "It will help young artists to aspire to develop their abilities and talent."
Prior to the event the Institute also screened a documentary about Christo and Jeanne-Claude's 2005 project, The Gates, which was also widely attended by the NYUAD community. The screening was followed by a discussion session, during which Christo and documentary filmmaker Antonio Ferrera answered numerous questions from the audience.
"I liked Christo because he was honest and charismatic; his sense of humor was also unique," said Paulsen. "It was liberating to hear him say that you can like art just because of itself — it doesn't need to have any purpose behind it."