Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Celebrating Christo

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 30th May, 2018

Celebrating Christo 1I first became aware of the Bulgarian-born artist Christo when he shrouded the Bundestag in Berlin in 1995. There was quite a heated debate among German MPs at the time, about whether this was a good idea, but in hindsight it was a blessing that Art won through. Christo (he habitually calls himself only by hist forename) left Communist Bulgaria for Prague in 1956 and managed to defect to Vienna by bribing a customs official to let him through in a sealed waggon on a train, eventually settling in New York with his French wife, Jeanne-Claude. Even now, they are a formidable team, as creators and business people; his most spectacular work costs millions of dollars to construct, all of it raised by themselves, interestingly.

Flotaing PiersBut what of the man? Now we know, thanks to a fascinating documentary, The Frontier of Our Dreams, directed by Georgi Balabanov and being screened tomorrow evening at 7.30pm in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. I caught it at a Press preview at the Bulgarian Cultural Institute today. It is actually a film about Christo and one of his two brothers, Anani, who would have loved to have been an artist himself but was essentially forbidden by the Communist autorities (as the son of a former industrialist, sent to prison on a trumped-up chare of sabotage). Instead Anani became an actor, hidebound by the strict political orthodoxy of that most pro-Soviet of Eastern European regimes. Though he did get the chance to travel abroad sometimes, he never followed his brother’s example by defecting (for which Christo was denounced as a traitor by the regime in Sofia). In the film, Anani wonders whether he made the wrong decision, whether in fact he wasted half his life, not envying his brother’s huge commercial success as such but rather missing the opportunity to be his real self. This gives a wonderful poignancy to Balabanov’s film, which is accompanied tomorrow by Evgenia Atanasova-Teneva’s more reverential documentary, Bridge to Christo, about his 2016 installation in Italy, Floating Piers. Huge crowds went to enjoy that piece, bringing considerable benefit to the local economy, as well as giving visitors the unusual sensation of walking on water. Though the V&A showing is a one-off, the two films deserve wider circulation, not least Balabanov’s.

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2 Responses to “Celebrating Christo”

  1. The cold absolute truth is much more preferred than a kind and uncertain lie. (Gabe Suico)

  2. The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

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