Remembering the “Running Fence” at American Art Museum

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Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude have made a name for themselves by staging massive, temporary art projects. You may be familiar with their project, The Gates—7,503 panels of orange fabric that hung, for 16 days in February 2005, in a winding path in New York City's Central Park.

Or perhaps you have seen pictures of Berlin's Reichstag, wrapped up like a present in silver fabric. After 24 years of planning and with the help of 90 professional climbers and 120 installation workers, the husband-and-wife team successfully pulled off that stunt-like project in June of 1995. The building remained wrapped for 14 days.

But one of their earliest, most memorable constructions was Running Fence—a 24.5-mile long, 18-foot high white, billowy barrier that stretched along the coast of Northern California for 14 days in September 1976. The structure took four years of planning, 240,000 square yards of nylon fabric (recycled material from castaway car air bags) and 360 able-bodied workers, some of whom were local farmers, to pull off.

Clearly, with such fleeting existences, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's works are all about the process. Fortunately for the Smithsonian, the American Art Museum has in its collection the definitive archive of the making of the Running Fence.

The newly-opened exhibition "Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Remembering the Running Fence" tells the story of the fence through components from the actual project (you can touch a piece of the original fence!), nearly 50 original preparatory drawings and collages, a 58-foot long scale model and more than 240 photographs.

We suggest coordinating your visit with one of these related events:

Running Fence Gallery Talk - Tuesday, April 13, 5:30 p.m.

Deputy Chief Curator George Gurney leads a tour. Meet in exhibition entrance, third floor.

Conservation of the Running Fence Archive, Gallery Talk - Thursday, April 29, 5:30 p.m.

Conservators Helen Ingalls and Kate Maynor explain the conservation challenges that come along with the fence's fabric and the artists' sketches.

To the German People: Wrapped Reichstag 1971-1995 - Wednesday, May 12, 6 p.m.

Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United States Klaus Scharioth introduces a showing of To the German People: Wrapped Reichstag 1971-1995, a film about the Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Wrapped Reichstag project. Christo and filmmaker Wolfram Hissen will lead a discussion after the screening. Free tickets available in G Street Lobby, one hour prior. McEvoy Auditorium, Lower Level.

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