Bob Chase is surrounded by never before seen Christo works. A wrapped bouquet Christo gave to Jeanne-Claude, a pencil drawing of a never-completed project.
“These were the works of art he kept for himself. These were some of his favorites and some of the best that have ever been seen. Most have never been seen before,” Bob says.
Bob is the owner of Hexton Gallery in Aspen, where the exhibition “Christo & Jeanne-Claude: Ephemeral Nature” is on display in September.
The special show highlights preparatory drawings and collages from the artists’ most well-known environmental installations from the past 50 years. The exhibition has been 20 years in the making—dating back to when Bob first met Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s legal collaborator, Scott Hodes. “The Gates was gaining international attention at the time and was finally coming to fruition after more than two decades of development and negotiation. At that first meeting, Scott slipped me a small swatch of The Gates fabric, and I was hooked,” Bob says.
Bob recently walked us through some of the exhibit’s most extraordinary pieces.
The Gates (Project for Central Park, New York City), 2001
As part of the exhibition, Bob wanted to highlight the works with the most extensive collaged elements. “That for me is one of my favorite things about Christo—the fact that he could imagine years ahead of time, while sitting in the four walls of his studio, exactly what these different fabrics were going to do out in the environment.”
He says “The Gates” might be one of the best examples of his collage he’s ever seen. “You’re looking through one of the gates, and the fabric in the collage is alive with movement and blowing in the wind. You look at a picture from the actual installation five years later, and the fabrics are doing exactly what he collaged. It’s so amazing.”
Wrapped Roses for J-C, 1993
Bob says it was important to him to highlight Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s relationship, as he says one artist couldn’t exist in the same way without the other. “The drawings, the collages he made ahead of the projects were all his work, and the projects were Christo and Jeanne-Claude. He made these works because he believed they would pull these projects off, and he believed they would pull them off because Jeanne-Claude was his collaborator and was going to help make it happen,” Bob says. “I think it’s just a really beautiful story of a partnership where two people come together with different talents and disciplines to make something really special happen. And to share a romantic relationship for 50 years is pretty special.”
One of the most beautiful parts of the show is a wrapped bouquet of flowers Christo made for Jeanne-Claude and gave to her in 1993 as a thank you for all of her help and as a romantic gesture. “These flowers stayed in their home from ’93 until a couple weeks ago when they arrived in the gallery,” Bob says.
Over the River (Project for Arkansas River, State of Colorado), 2012
When Bob first moved to Colorado from Chicago, Christo’s Arkansas River project was in the works, though the installation was never completed. “I have a particular affinity for that one because it’s just 40 miles from here. I was obviously hopeful that I would be a rafter on the river when that was happening,” he laughs.
Bob says Christo loved the discussion elements of his projects and, in that way, the “Over the River” project was fulfilled. “In his mind it did what it needed to do. So much of the art for him was the discussion about the project and the opposition. He loved all of that.”
Bob says “Over the River” might be one of the most beautifully rendered artworks he’s ever seen. “You see these rafters on the Arkansas River underneath this fabric with blue sky peeking through; it is a stunningly beautiful work of art.”
Valley Curtain (Project for Aspen, Colorado), 1970
While the “Valley Curtain” project was ultimately executed in Rifle, Colorado, most people don’t know it was initially conceived for Aspen. “There are a handful of Aspen collages he made—very few—and the only two I know of that are in existence are the two we have in the gallery that show Aspen as the location,” Bob says. “That’s just such an incredibly cool insight and a testament to the way this town punches above its weight culturally. The fact that Christo was here conceiving projects.”
The exhibition is scheduled to run at least through Sept. 15.