Monday, November 7, 2011


Christo’s Over The River gets federal approval
Artist says final plans to wrap the Arkansas River answer opposition’s concerns over environmental impact

By Helen Stoilas. From Web only
Published online: 07 November 2011

DENVER. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s plans to wrap the Arkansas River in southern Colorado were finally approved today by the Bureau of Land Management after more than two years of review and public debate. If the artist secures the final permits from Colorado agencies, the temporary work will go on display between Salida and Cañon City for two consecutive weeks, starting at the earliest in August 2014.

Over The River, the latest project proposed by the contemporary artist who famously wrapped the Reichstag in 1995, will see a 42-mile stretch of the river covered by 5.9 miles of fabric panels. “We’re elated. The only thing that is missing is that Jeanne-Claude is not here to enjoy it—she would be up in the air with happiness,” said Christo over the phone today. He was on route to Washington, DC, where he will give a press conference on Tuesday announcing a gift to the National Gallery of Art, including works related to the project.

The work has seen furious opposition from local groups, which say it will have a negative impact on the region’s environment and wildlife. The Bureau of Land Management released a report that answers these concerns with a series of mitigation measures, which Christo will also be responsible for funding. According to the bureau, the artist’s organisation for the project, named OTR Corp, will fund a “habitat improvement project and water developments” that will allow the sheep access to other water sources while the project is up. The artist will also take measures to lessen the impact on migratory birds and eagles. And while fishing access in the immediate area of the project will be “significantly impacted” in the short term, the Bureau of Land Management says it will not be disrupted in the rest of the canyon. Traffic, boating and access to recreation areas will also be monitored.

“This is the first time in history that the government has done an impact study like this for a work of art, it’s normally only done for building, bridges, airports, or mining project,” said Christo. He also says it’s the first time that a book has been published for a work of art that does not exist, referring to the 1,686-page report published by the government, which he says cost $2.5m to research. “Critics have never written about a painting before it’s been painted, or a sculpture before it’s been sculpted”.

“After careful consideration of the potential impact to the Arkansas River and the wildlife and plants that inhabit this beautiful area, we believe that steps have been taken to mitigate the environmental effects of this one-of-a-kind project,” said Ken Salazar, the US Interior Secretary, in a statement released by the Bureau of Land Management. Salazar also said he expects the project to draw visitors to Colorado which “will support jobs in the tourism industry” and draw attention to the state’s parkland.

According to the artists’ website, Over The River is estimated to generate $121m for the local economy and draw 400,000 visitors during construction and display. Christo says he expects to begin construction in 2012, and has projected costs to be around $50m. The artist will fund through sales of original drawings and designs for the work, as with all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s past projects.

Although it has federal approval, the project still needs to secure permits from Fremont and Chaffee Counties, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado State Patrol.

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