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Wrap the Wind: following into the steps of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. A new book by Vantzeti Vassilev

Christo Yavashev, The Mastaba
Photo: archive
I am into art, because I love Christo. If he were a dentist, I would go for dental medicine, Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, the late wife and associate of Bulgaria-born avant-garde artist Christo once said. These words capture concisely a great love story that went on for 50 years and made the two artists emblems of contemporary art. Christo Yavashev who was born in Gabrovo, Central Bulgaria, met his future wife in Paris back in 1958. He was an unknown immigrant from the Soviet Bloc, and she came from an aristocratic family and was engaged to an eligible man. Jeanne-Claude and Christo turned out astral twins, both born on 13 June 1935, and soon decided they wanted to live together. They married in 1962 and emigrated to New York where they lived until the death of Jeanne-Claude in 2009.

© Photo: archive

The installation Big Air Package is created from air, cloth and ropes - it is 90 meters high, 50 meters wide and weighs 5.3 tonnes.
It was in the Big Apple that they met with Vantzeti Vassilev, author of the latest book released in Bulgarian about the artistic family, Wrap the Wind. The writer, who is a chemical engineer, escaped from communist Bulgaria in 1988 and spent 18 months in Italy. He then moved on the New York. During his career he worked for the Environment Department of New York and is now retired. Vassilev took up writing while still in Bulgaria. He took the manuscript of his first book The Seeds of Fear away with him, since it stood no chances of being published in a communist country. After the changes, The Seeds of Fear was released in Bulgarian in 1991 with support from poet Boris Christov.

Literature was a cathartic experience for me, a way to share the pain with many people – my readers, Vantzeti Vassilev says. My second book, The Trains of Rome that was released in 2006 was also translated into German.

Vassilev’s latest book Wrap the Wind contains plans for the projects of Jeanne-Claude and Christo and explores the history of each project and the difficulties that stood in their way. The most famous achievements of Christo include the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and of the oldest Seine bridge in Paris, as well as the spanning of 36-km long curtains in California and the installation of gates from fabric in Central Park, New York. The idea for the book came to Vantzeti Vassilev during his first visit to the home of the artistic family:

The book Wrap the Wind describes all major international projects of Jeanne-Claude and Christo plus some biographical details from their bio written by Burt Chernow, as well as a few stories told by Christo’s Bulgarian actor-brother Anani Yavashev and his wife Diddy. However, the book accentuates the grand projects of the artistic duo. It makes a good reading because I wrote it with love as I watched their great love. Their love actually made me their fan and follower.

The writer contends that Bulgaria was and is present in the life of Christo Yavashev every single day.

In all projects, films and interviews he never forgets mentioning that he is Bulgarian. In the documentary The Wrapped Reichstag he insisted on the inclusion of two folk songs performed by The Mystery of Bulgarian Voiced Choir. Some argue that Christo never made an exhibition in his home country, but this is not true. Back in 2005, 62 posters by him were mounted in Sofia including four works created while he was still a student at the National Academy of Art. Later the Academy sold them to Belgian collector Hugo Voeten. Christo Yavashev reproduced the posters and they are still Bulgarian property. Therefore, Wrap the Wind is also a way to debunk some myths about Christo as a man and artist. I wanted to portray a great Bulgarian well-known across the world and little known in Bulgaria, concludes writer Vantzeti Vassilev.

Translated by Daniela Konstantinova

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