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Art Watch: Christo in Chi-Town

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The husband-and-wife powerhouse known as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, of recent “The Gates” in Central Park fame, are concentrating their efforts on a new project in Colorado.

They call the proposed piece “Over the River,” and like all the others they’ve done before, it is grand in design and epic in scale.

Their idea is to take their trademark translucent fabric, used to great effect in New York City, California, Germany, Paris, and elsewhere, and stretch it horizontally above the surface of the water. The material would cover almost seven intermittent miles of river along a forty-mile stretch. Christo’s illustrations on the artists’ website show a shady tunnel from the point of view of a canoer or rafter, blue sky visible through the fabric and sunlight gently filtered down. The artists scouted for appropriate locations in the Rocky Mountains for four years before choosing the Arkansas River in Colorado.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are facing their usual share of pessimism from local residents, who argue that the quiet mountainous area couldn’t support the two-week influx of an estimated 80,000 visitors that could be harmful to wildlife. Anti-Christo protestor Cathey Young told the Colorado Springs Gazette, “We just don’t want to see this thing come … I don’t see it as artistic.”

Mayor Daley’s office seems undecided as well: on a preliminary proposal submitted by Christo and Jeanne-Claude for a 2010 project in Chicago. If all of the city and state permits are received, the artists will move forward with their plan to enswathe Chicago’s famous Picasso statue in the Daley Center Plaza with 2,400 yards of shiny silver fabric, held in place with specially designed weights. As usual, all materials will be recycled at the close of the project.

A statement on the artists’ website explains, “After the success of wrapping the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1969, we would love very much to return to the city of Chicago. The horse statute [Picasso left the sculpture] unnamed, neglected to explain what it is and, in fact, never even visited the city of Chicago. Daley’s office and state officials are expected to vote on the proposal in June.
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