From the Archives: Christo Surrounds Islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay in Fabric, in 1984

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, documentary photograph of Surrounded Islands Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980–83, woven polypropylene fabric surrounding 11 islands, Styrofoam, steel cables, and anchoring system 6.5 million square feet of fabric overall.


One of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s biggest works to date remains Surrounded Islands Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, a project realized in 1983 in Miami’s Biscayne Bay that involved unfurling 6.5 million square feet of floating pink fabric. That work—now the subject of a Pérez Art Museum Miami exhibition—was the focus of a profile of Christo first published in the January 1984 issue of ARTnews. In the profile, Lisbet Nilson details the media circus surrounding the sculptural piece as well as controversy among animal activists, local politicians, and confused onlookers alike. “This is my Water Lilies,” Christo told Nilson, referring to Claude Monet’s Impressionism. The profile follows in full below. —Alex Greenberger

“ ‘This Is My Water Lilies’: Christo’s Blossoms in the Bay”
By Lisbet Nilson
January 1984

As discreetly as the walkie-talkie would allow, the word went out: There was a “situation” on Island #2. To the Christo crowd, that was a euphemism for a problem. It was now day two of the Surrounded Islands unfurling, which had already been disrupted once, the day before, by squalls. This time, it seemed, the “situation” was more localized, but also possibly more devastating: The pink fabric on #2 appeared to the Christo workers on the island to be shrinking. That would certainly trigger the kind of environmental alarms on behalf of sea grasses and manatees that could, by legal agreement, lead to the aborting of the project. Within minutes, Christo’s wife and collaborator, Jeanne-Claude, and Wolfgang Volz, official photographer and unofficial troubleshooter for the project, had scudded to the scene by motorboat, and Jeanne-Claude—in characteristically dramatic display of nervous energy—had plunged into the water to tug at the heavy, floundering mass of polypropylene.

“Are you a good swimmer, Jeanne-Claude?” someone shouted after her.

“No,” she hollered back. “But I am a very good panicker.”

Surrounded Islands was slowly “blossoming.” The “lacers,” working belly down on blue rubber rafts, were ready to sew together the panels, each hundreds of yards wide, of woven polypropylene, which was specially supercharged with air bubbles to let it ride buoyantly on the water’s surface. But the stretch of fabric that had just been released from a cocoon at one end of Island #2 was heaving and dragging, partially submerged. Already, a boat from the Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management was bobbing vigilantly nearby. It was time to summon Christo.

Waiting for a lull in the airwave traffic, which was bristling with shrill exchanges about missing sandwiches on one far island, Volz called for the artist and one of his technical advisers, Jim Fuller. They soon appeared on the horizon, Christo poised at the prow of a speeding boat, straining for a first glance of the island. Even before the gaggle of press boats caught up, Christo and Fuller had decided that the problem had been caused by the tide and would soon be solved by the tide. They urged Jeanne-Claude out of the water. Then they stayed, to soothe, to exhort, to adjust some of the floating booms—ignoring the walkie-talkie’s insistent squawks that Christo was due back at the harbor immediately for an important television interview. And sure enough, a few minutes later, the tide did refloat the pink fabric. One young lacer, who had frantically been working to attach the sinking section, nearly swooned with relief. “To think that you are here and the fabric is up,” he breathed worshipfully to Christo. “To think I might have ruined a $3 million project.

One would think that this sort of moment—when a concept he has long fought for is at the point of realization—would be the most satisfying part of a project for Christo. But it seems to speed by, neither savored nor analyzed. “That moment is so crazy, that moment is like a war,” Christo had said at a much calmer stage, long before Surrounded Islands was completed. “It will begin early in the morning, when the birds start to go ahead, and there will be a crazy mess of communication—with seven miles of bay between one end of the project and the other—and we will have to worry if the people have water, if they are being sent sandwiches, if that material has arrived, if they have enough gas. And then for 14 days, I am involved in this enormous project which is like running a big city. I would like to enjoy it physically, but I am responsible; it is like I am the owner of a million square feet of surfaces with enormous public access, so that I will be glad when it goes away, as soon as possible.”

But he is grinning.

It was the first Christo project to reach consummation in five years. For two weeks in May last year, eleven small islands in the midst of Miami’s Biscayne Bay were girdled with ten floating skirts of bright pink polypropylene, 6.5 million square feet of fabric, which fanned out 200 feet from the islands, echoing their contours. It was called Surrounded Islands, it cost $3.5 million, and for a few weeks it both drew and generated the kind of hoopla that has been associated with Christo ever since other huge and expensive projects such as Running Fence and Valley Curtain clinched his image as an artist who works on a huge scale, at a headlong pitch of publicity and controversy. For those few weeks, Surrounded Islands was the darling of color hungry television, the subject of endless newspaper “pink” puns and the object of national eyebrow-raising because of the ephemeral project’s cost. Reporters found people in the street who would proclaim the project “pretty” or ask who the artist’s psychiatrist was. Local museum officials were brought out onto docks that had TV cameras trained on them and were asked the portentous question “Is this art?” Long-time international art-world supporters of the Bulgarian-born artist—from Germany, Sweden, France, Japan—flocked to the project headquarters at Pelican Bay Harbor to share the excitement and were joined by a few of the California ranchers once involved in Running Fence, who seemed to want to show their support and to reinforce their memories. Environmental opponents hovered about, rallying with sometimes flamboyant protectiveness in the interest of the bay’s wildlife. Most visible among them was Jack Kassewitz, Jr., the head of an organization called the National Wildlife Rescue Team, who styled himself “the Count of Anti-Christo.” To protest potential harm to the habitat of ospreys, eagles, sea grasses and manatees, Kassewitz at one point tied a string of pink garbage bags in a bow around one of the Miami courthouses. And there were the Christo workers—430 of them, some of them as adoring as groupies, a few just plain unemployed, all of them paid $28 a day for eight-hour shifts that sometimes began at three in the morning—toiling in long-sleeved pink T-shirts, in bug repellent, in brimmed white cloth hats that looked straight out of the French Foreign Legion.

As always with a Christo project, there was also the official barrage of statistics—this time emanating on pink paper. Christo and Jeanne-Claude were hardly at a loss when it came to playing up the project for the minor engineering miracle that it was, with its vast amount of custom-fabricated and -sewn material (three times more than was used for Running Fence), its 610 specially designed, hydraulically positioned anchors, linked by radiating lines to the 12-inch-wide octagonal booms that defined the outer edges of the floating fabric. Because every element had to be manipulated from the water (from 32 boats, including the rubber rafts), Surrounded Islands was logistically one of the most complicated projects Christo has undertaken. Partly because of the fragility of the bay habitat, the project generated seven public hearings, ten permit applications, $400,000 worth of environmental tests and several court appearances by the Christo legal team during its 30 months of preparation. Once the project was realized, it cost $15,000 a day for maintenance, island monitoring and security. (Nobody had ever noticed before that the bay, with its swarms of speeding power boats, was ecologically fragile, nor the islands themselves—chunks of earth, now litter strewn, that had been dumped into the bay by the Army Corps of Engineers when it deepened the Intracoastal Waterway early in the century.)

It often seemed that the profusion of facts and figures overwhelmed Christo’s statements of artistic purpose, although his hommage to Monet—“This is my Water Lilies”—was picked up far and wide. There was more to it than that, of course. Since his 1969 Wrapped Case outside Sydney, Christo had wanted to create a large-scale project using water as a surface. For an even longer time, he has wanted to carry out an artistic intervention in the midst of the highly charged complexity of a major city. Biscayne Bay is no out-of-the-way southern Florida inlet; as Christo is fond of pointing out—partly because of The Gates, his currently stymied Central Park project—it is to Miami what Central Park is to New York: an intensively used man-made public recreation area in the middle of a teeming metropolis. “This,” Christo says of Surrounded Islands, “is the most urban project I have done.”

He also considers it his most painterly. “Formally, it’s very different from my other projects,” he says. “Running Fence, Valley Curtain, The Gates, the Australia project—they were all working on a more architectonic dimension with structures of volumes or three-dimensional forms. The Miami project has a flatness, this enormous horizontality. In a way, technically speaking, the work is looking like six and a half million feet of painting canvas.” (Which, it might be added, demanded to be seen from above, preferably from a helicopter—making it less accessible than other Christo projects, as one observer noted.)

Then there was the matter of that outrageous pink—a color that Christo settled on as he got to know Miami and began to sense its dynamic two-culture personality and its Latin vibrancy; the pink, he observes, “is certainly not Anglo-Saxon.” But the Miami residents who perceived it as a sly cultural insult were wrong. Christo maintains that he wanted a “chemical” color that would create an “artificial painterly presence” and resist being swallowed up by the subtropical city’s strong natural colors and light. As it turned out, Miami’s moisture-laden air suffused and modulated the harshest neon bite of the pink, but the color remained startlingly incongruous and helped to carry out Christo’s aim: to create a lyrical and completely gratuitous “poetical gesture.”

What others made of the whole operation varied greatly—which is all right with Christo, who always insists that he wants his works to function “on many, many different levels” and who therefore, theoretically, is as receptive to a howl of protest from a local environmentalist or politician as he is to praise from an established art critic. This time around, once again he got all kinds of reactions. As critic Grace Glueck of The New York Times said, “Where other artists put nature in a frame, Christo goes boldly to the landscape itself, bringing to it elegant artistic effects that recall our attention to the splendor of the natural environment (or what’s left of it) in the same romantic spirit as the painters of the 19th-century West.” Citing the length and elaborateness of Surrounded Islands’ preparation time and the brevity of its duration, Helen L. Kohen, art critic for the Miami Herald, observed, “What Christo has done relates directly to pageantry, and to other of those ancient rites that functioned to erase apathy from a given society.” Challenging the importance of “pink tutus for an island chain” in the pages of Connoisseur (and later on network television), Thomas Hoving, editor-in-chief of the magazine and former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, disagreed. “Christo has exposed 20th-century art as limitlessly fascinating, infinitely imaginative, technically breathtaking, and, at the same time, shallow, vapid and discouragingly devoid of human values,” he wrote. New Yorker critic Calvin Tomkins, on the other hand, asserted that he found the finished project “a surpassingly beautiful sight,” its integrity untarnished by all the media attention.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are at home in Manhattan in a modest loft at an unfashionable edge of SoHo where they have lived for 19 years. Upstairs is the atticlike studio where Christo spends early morning drawing during all the months (even years) when his projects aren’t in the thick of being realized; downstairs is the apartment of the couple’s son, Cyril. Christo is stretched out on the floor, his back propped against a couch, just talking. His conversation is intense, dense, riddled with Bulgarian and prone to French. He is sincere, persuasive, infectiously enthusiastic—and ever so slightly impersonal; another interview is, after all, just one more step in seeing his future projects realized. Talking about his work, he says “we” as often as “I,” almost always including Jeanne-Claude, with whom he has an unusual, symbiotic relationship: She is his dealer, agent, financial manager and curator, as well as his companion of 25 years. Often the plural also includes the engineers and building contractors (particularly Ted Dougherty of A & H Builders, Inc.), lawyers, environmental consultants, local politicians—even active opponents—who help generate the momentum for Christo’s unlikely projects and shape their final realization. It has less to do with modesty than with Christo’s dialectical sense of his creative process. “The work develops its own dimension,” he says. “It is always bigger than my imagination alone.”

His projects, to Christo, seem the sum of many different, sometimes paradoxical concerns, as inextricably combined by the layers of a thick impasto. Always, he speaks of the projects as significantly akin to architecture or urban planning; they involve all the prosaic, time-consuming engineering and approval problems of, say, a controversial new bridge. With a pragmatism worthy of a seasoned lobbyist or real-estate developer, he speaks of the “politics of reality,” or of the slow changing of elected officials’ minds, of grass-roots and prominent-citizen support, of necessary adjustments that will make a project finally available. But he can also be a kind of environmentalist, talking about focusing attention and concern on a natural area through a project that will leave no traces behind. He can discuss, in minute detail, the technical improvisations his engineers have come up with to make a project possible; then he will point out, with apparent glee, the new hurdles—political or physical—that are providing the “resistance that creates a higher importance.” The stages of a project, he says, are differentiated into “software” (drawing and planning) and “hardware” (implementation). He knows, he says, how to work through all channels of society.

Then, suddenly, he will be talking about beauty and art history, and the mystery of memory. He speaks about sculptural form or painterly surface. He argues for the formal allure that fabric and draping had for the artists of the past, citing the sculpture of Bernini and Michelangelo, the paintings of El Greco. He mentions the use of fabric by primitive nomadic tribal people, who, by setting up tents temporarily and then moving on, were actually staking out territory. Purposely avoiding the catchword “wrapping,” he says that the use of fabric is probably the most important artistic element of his projects. He says he is drawn to fabric because of its vulnerability, its sensuous qualities, the sympathy it invites—“almost like the leaves of a tree, or the skin” in the case of Surrounded Islands—and because it is impermanent. Originally, he notes, his large-scale projects were temporary simply because they had to be, but now their temporary quality has become an important philosophic element. “This kind of nomadic idea became a much more powerful presence,” he says. “This taking the place and moving away, taking the place and moving away. What is happening is that the work is gone, but the human being can never thinking in the same way about a place because he knows that once work the work was there. There is kind of a contradiction—the work physically disappears, but, by having been there, is visible forever.”

But if the execution is the artistic fruition of a Christo project (and Christo is adamant in his insistence that the idea, without realization, is always incomplete), and if memory is the final product, there is also an earlier stage that Christo considers crucial: that of fantasy and anticipation. “You know, we . . . bénéficier from all the time it take to do a project,” he says. “Because the work does not exist until a lot of people go through enormous emotion, fantasizing how awful or how beautiful the project will be. By the time it is here, so many people are related to the work, and the work has created a new type of public. Usually, going to a museum or a gallery, you are confronted with art objects directly, and you can be against them or not. But you don’t have this long anticipation, which really gives the great expectation.”

Right now, there are four Christo projects in a state of “expectation”—all of them officially rebuffed at some level, all of them nevertheless steadily gathering energy and momentum, according to Christo. Most imminent, he says, is the wrapping of the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris, which Christo first proposed in 1976 and which he now hopes to accomplish in June of 1986; last year, he apparently finally won the unofficial, but crucial, support of Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac, who told Christo that he would back the project if he won the 1983 election (which he did). More controversial is Christo’s proposal to wrap the Reichstag in Berlin, which has been pending since 1972. The proposal is now being shepherded through the arena of West German opinion and politics by a committee of prominent civil business and cultural figures, who believe that the wrapping would focus healing attention on sensitive issues in German history since the building was the home of the short-lived German democracy between the world wars. The project is particularly complex because the structure is still under the jurisdiction of four occupying powers (the United States, the U.S.S.R., France and Great Britain). For reasons of personal history, Christo has for a long time wanted to do a project that would “physically engage both East and West.”

Then there is his proposal to create a giant mastaba (a rectangular form with sloping sides and a flat roof, based on the form of ancient Egyptian tombs) in Abu Dhabi, out of 309,500 oil barrels. It would be more massive than the Cheops pyramid—and it would be Christo’s first permanent project. To achieve it, he is absorbing the nuances of yet another society: carefully effacing any hint of individualistic Western artistic ambition, proposing it in a roundabout manner to an absolute ruler in “a place with the most profound roots in permanence”—Sheikh Zayed of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. And there is The Gates, Christo’s Manhattan project, originally proposed for 1983, which would weave a 27-mile “golden river” walkway of yellow banners through Central Park in an arabesque contrast to the city’s grid, at a cost most recently estimated at over $6 million (and that was three years ago). It has been turned down as a potentially dangerous precedent by the city’s (now former) parks commissioner and lambasted in editorials in The New York Times. An environmental-impact survey supporting the project is very slowly being prepared, and Christo is thinking it might be ready to do it—oh, maybe in 1990 or so.

These projects take not just time but a massive infusion of capital. This is where Jeanne-Claude comes in. Since 1970, the time of Valley Curtain, she has been president and treasurer of the CVJ Corporation, which has as its assets all the artist’s unsold works and receives all monies from their sale and is charged with all costs of a project. (Christo himself holds the humble title of assistant secretary and is paid a salary of $25,000 a year by the company, in return for which he has to produce enough drawings to finance each project.) Originally chartered in Illinois, the company is registered in other states as the projects require (in Florida, it was named the Surrounded Islands Corporation, because there already was a CVJ). Once a Christo project has its requisite approvals and is on the brink of its most capital-intensive stage, Jeanne-Claude sends out about a hundred letters offering “purchasing subscribers” the chance to buy drawings at a discount in exchange for cash; in the case of Surrounded Islands, subscribers had to make an up-front payment of $50,000 or more, for which they later received drawings at a 30 percent discount. The full price of a Christo work ranges from $10,000 for a 22-by-28-inch collage of a work-in-progress to $36,000 for a drawing eight feet across; prices for studies of completed projects are higher (in the case of Surrounded Islands, $14,000 and $45,000), because Christo produces no more drawings of a work after it has reached the execution stage. Over the years, Christo has sold primarily to four or five private dealers, most of them European, and directly to museums and collectors. The system apparently works so smoothly that this time Christo was able to qualify for an impressive $700,000 worth of loans from Citibank—not bad for a still-controversial contemporary artist, particularly considering that $500,000 of the total represents a standing line of credit that can be reactivated annually. “One important thing,” says Christo, “is that we’re working very much in a very simple way like any capitalist enterprise—only the most crazy thing, which everybody cannot understand, is that we’re not making any profit” (because all money is plowed into future projects). “In a way there is this enormous eccentricity who is highly individualistic and almost irresponsible in a way, which is what makes the projects so attractive.”

One thing is certain: Christo’s projects would be impossible in Bulgaria. He has never risked a return to his native country, where he was born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff on June 13, 1935. (Jeanne-Claude was born on the same hour of the same day in the same year, in Casablanca.) He was the middle son of a socially and intellectually prominent family whose chemical-manufacturing business was nationalized in 1944 under the new Communist order. From his early days, Christo’s artistic bent was encouraged by his parents, and as a 17-year-old he enrolled in the Sofia Fine Arts Academy for a broad-based arts education that included painting, sculpture, architecture and stage design. Socialist Realism, backed by a conservative academic perception of art that stopped short of modernism, was de rigeur; students studied Marxism and were sent out on weekends in agitprop teams. They painted billboards or prettied up the route of foreigners riding the Oriental Express, revamping or concealing unsightly haystacks and posing tractors at dramatic angles. Christo remembers chafing at the official restraints of his formative years, but he believes they were important to his development. On the one hand, he has said, he learned how exhilarating group efforts can be, and how to gauge dimension on a landscape-size scale.

Christo’s journey westward began in 1956, when he was given permission to study in the somewhat freer atmosphere of Prague under the avant-garde Czech traditional director Emil Burian, who introduced him to modern art. Christo didn’t stay long in Prague. When the Russian suppression of the Hungarian uprising in the fall of 1956 cut him off from Bulgaria and seemed to bode ill for Czechoslovakia, he contacted a doctor he knew who was helping people to flee to Vienna. In January 1957, he crossed the border on a train—packed inside a shipment of medical supplies.

Christo spent a semester at the Vienna Fine Arts Academy, then pressed on again: to Geneva for a few months, then to Paris, the most compelling place for a young artist to be at the time. He arrived there in March 1958. Before too long, he had met Pierre Restany, then the intellectual explicator for the nouveaux réalistes, a group that included Yves Klein, Jean Tinguely and Arman and was dedicated to the transformation into art of “ready-made” objects from everyday life; he became, as he puts it, a “side element” of the group and showed with it once, in 1963. Through a German collector in Wuppertal, he also met members of a more performance-oriented international set. And, supporting himself as he had since his Prague days by painting impressionist-style portraits of the well-to-do, he met Jeanne-Claude de Vuillebon, the daughter of a French general.

The earliest works of Christo’s Paris days were loose assemblages of artifacts that he called, collectively, Inventory—bottles, tin cans, boxes, oil drums eventually, that had been wrapped in resin-steeped cloth and string, painted on or simply left to display some interesting surface or color of their own. They stood in a corner of his small studio as if waiting to be transported from one place to another. “There was certainly in them a very strong presence of moving—an uneasiness, some sort of not solid, not present, going away,” he says now. “But a simple packagelike object can look like a classic relief done with elements that are fragile, that are inviting, that you can open, pass through, au delà . . .”

By the early 1960s, the array of objects he was veiling into fragility and apparent transience had broadened (furniture, wheeled vehicles, mechanical apparatuses, even live women were now packed in semitransparent layers of plastic), and Christo was beginning to take on objects of much larger, even architectural, proportions. In connection with his first solo show, in the Galerie Haro Lauhus in Cologne in 1961, he wrapped several stacks of massive paper rolls and some large containers on the local waterfront in tarpaulin and rope. In drawings made the same year, he also formulated his first proposal for the packaging of a public building (which was not specified) in Paris. His next idea for a “temporary monument” foreshadowed the animated controversy that would become synonymous with Christo projects: For three hours on a June evening in 1962, about the time of the first anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, he built an “iron curtain” of 204 oil drums that completely blocked the Rue Visconti, one of the oldest and narrowest streets in Paris, leaving the neighborhood loudly incensed.

But it was after he moved to the United States that Christo’s work grew fully monumental. “He found his real scale when he came to America,” said Restany. “That sense of space and big dimension—it must be the same kind of feeling that the Europeans had when they first landed here in colonial times. It gave Christo a kind of hyper-dimension.” Even before he left Paris, he had begun to enlarge the size of the vitrines—the shrouded “showcases” he had been doing before he left Paris—into full-sized “storefronts.” He would continue to work on them, and on much larger proposals, in the United States, but it took him a while to get his bearings and learn how to work through the American system (which is more economically than politically oriented than in Europe, he seems to feel). To comprehend, for example, that the owners of two skyscrapers in Manhattan’s financial district weren’t going to let him wrap them up just like that, or the idea of an impenetrable barrier across a major east-west highway artery (the 1967 Closed Highway proposal) just wouldn’t wash here.

But he has managed quite a lot. He has tackled air, land, and sea, if not yet fire. In the air, most stunningly (and most precariously), there was the 5,600 Cubic Square Meter Package, 1968, which almost didn’t tower over Documenta 4 in Kassel, West Germany. On land, there was the orange Valley Curtain that finally spanned obscure Rifle Gap in Colorado for 28 hours in 1972, before a storm proved its undoing. There was Running Fence of 1976, perhaps the most spectacular of Christo’s projects, with its two million square feet of white fabric undulating over 24½ miles of California’s hilly Sonoma and Marin counties for 14 days. And, most recently, there was the much smaller-scale saffron-colored Wrapped Walkways that branched through a park in a quiet residential area of Kansas City, Missouri, for two weeks in October 1978. On or near the sea, there have been the Australian coast project of 1969—a million square feet of erosion-control fabric draped over cliffs and shore—and the 1974 Ocean Front in Newport, Rhode Island.

And now there has been Surrounded Islands. Like all of Christo’s projects, it too has disappeared—“vanished,” as Christo would say‚ in all its pink glory. (Even its staunchest opponent, Kassewitz, admitted a few months afterward that it was “pretty.”) It is this “vanishing,” Christo muses, that infuriates people most of all, because it seems so irresponsible. But it also the basis for the credibility—the history of pulling off large-scale works in the environment without, so far, an irreversible hitch—that he considers his greatest “capital gain.”

These days, Christo and Jeanne-Claude are in the long, quiet process of codifying and consolidating. They are curating the 270-piece Surrounded Islands exhibition, which will travel to nine European museums (beginning with the Sonja Henie-Niels Onstead Foundation in Oslo in the fall of 1984) and eventually reach the United States; they are preparing two books on the Miami project and a small pocket paperback for German audiences on the Reichstag project. And they are choosing illustrations for a book on Christo by a French writer and for a monograph on the artist that will be published in Japan. All of which, in effect, is a long-term, culminative campaign against the enjoinder “no.”

“You must understand what is the meaning of the word ‘no,’ ” Christo says cheerfully. “When we propose a project for a public space, it is, as I say, like doing something in urban planning; it is not like an artist who tries to exhibit at a gallery and is told ‘No, I don’t like your work, you can go away.’ It is more like some people saying ‘No, you cannot build this bridge here, because we don’t think it’s right’ but it is being said by somebody who is not the owner of the place, but who is elected by the people for a period of time and related to highly complex decision making, with many changes of the mind. That opinion is only one opinion within a group of opinions—and that opinion is also a matter of discussion, of reconsideration, of rethinking.

“One important thing,” Christo says, mentioning the levels of support for his projects that can build up in many different quarters, “is that time is on my side.” A while later, explaining why all the controversy is worth it in the end, he adds, “The worst thing that can happen to an artist is that no one cares about the work.”

A version of the story originally appeared in the January 1984 issue on page 54 under the title “ ‘This Is My Water Lilies’: Christo’s Blossoms in the Bay.”

“ ‘This Is My Water Lilies’: Christo’s Blossoms in the Bay”: ©1984 Lisbet Nilson.

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