Renowned for his epically scaled environmental art, Christo has draped the Reichstag in Berlin and Paris' Pont Neuf in giant swaths of fabric, populated the inland valleys of California and Japan with thousands of umbrellas, and installed a maze of gates in Central Park. These projects have each attracted millions of visitors. Here he shares the sketches and preparatory drawings for "Over the River," an ongoing project developed, like much of his art, with his late wife and collaborator, Jeanne-Claude.
THE GENESIS OF OVER THE RIVER was in September, 1985. We were wrapping the Pont Neuf with fabric—the bridge, the towers, the walkway, but also the big stone 400-year-old vault. The installation was done by rock climbers, famous French alpinists. All the fabric was lying flat on a barge, then elevated by pulleys. Jeanne-Claude and I were standing on the barge watching the fabric going up and up, and the sun was passing through, and the fabric was floating over the Seine, and that image stayed in our minds.
The proposal [for Over the River] is to suspend a huge banner of fabric way above the water. Most of the great rivers in the United States are born in the Rocky Mountains. It is why in the summers of 1992, '93, and '94, we traveled 15,000 miles investigating 89 rivers in Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico. In late 1996, we decided on a 42-mile section of the Arkansas River, in Colorado—for aesthetic reasons, for construction purposes, many reasons.
OVER THE RIVER, PROJECT FOR ARKANSAS RIVER, COLORADO
College 1992 in 2 parts: 30.5 x 77.5 cm, and 66.7 x 77.5 cm (12 x 30½")
Pencil, fabric, pastel, charcoal and topographic map
Photo: Simon Chaput
COPYRIGHT CHRISTO 1992 Ref. #5
ALL OUR PROJECTS are seasonal. The Gates was a winter project, because we wanted leafless trees so you could see the gates. Over the River is for the summer, because we want to have rafters. The Arkansas River is the most rafted river in United States, with 300,000 rafters in the summertime. And it's not like the Colorado River. Our section is very gentle, Category 2 or 3 rapids. You can hire someone to taxi you downriver. So you can experience the project by driving alongside it, or by being inside it, actually rafting, and the fabric would be above you.