NEW YORK, NY (AP).- Members of the art world gathered Monday to remember "The Gates" artist Jeanne-Claude as a passionate, uncompromising creative force who fought tirelessly to bring giant art projects to fruition.
"I've had the honor of meeting many artists in my life, but Jeanne-Claude was perhaps the most passionate, the most meticulous and the most impervious to the word 'no,'" New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said to the crowd. "She was the kind of unique and vibrant artist who comes around only once in a lifetime."
More than 5 million people saw "The Gates," which festooned 23 miles of Central Park's footpaths with thousands of saffron drapes. It was "a massive celebration of life, color and the creative spirit," Bloomberg told those attending the memorial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"The Gates" and other large-scale "wrapping" projects around the globe were the product of Jeanne-Claude's marriage and partnership with Christo. The two met in Paris in 1958 and had collaborated for 51 years on temporary public arts projects when Jeanne-Claude died in November at age 74.
"It was an inseparable partnership of art and love," said John Kaldor, who coordinated their piece "The Wrapped Coast" in Australia. "Born on the same day, two people as one. They built on each other's success and strengths."
Their works were in large part due to Jeanne-Claude's remarkable organizational acuity, said architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who spoke of the endless bureaucratic battles the couple were required to take on to get approval for their projects. "The Gates" was 26 years in the making.
"She knew that every project was a marathon, and she was prepared to run the full course, however long it took," Goldberger said. "She focused on the tiny details, and in so doing, she freed all the rest of us to celebrate the most extravagant, glorious gestures."
All the couple's projects required mammoth manpower and miles of fabric and other materials. At the time of her death, Christo vowed to continue their current work "Over The River, Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado" and "The Mastaba," a project in the United Arab Emirates.
The pair said they never accepted any sponsorship and financed all their temporary installations through the projects themselves. They sold their preparatory drawings, collages, scale models and original lithographs.
"Christo and Jeanne-Claude have shown us what happens, what we can achieve, when we let go of the constraints that bind us and embrace our very best ideas," said Elizabeth Broun, Smithsonian American Art Museum director. "They show us what it means to live completely freely, in debt to no patron, no sponsor, no ideology and really recognizing no authority in our lives beyond our own moral compass and personal vision."
Associated Press Writer Ula Ilnytzky contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.