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Curtains for the Arkansas

Brief by Central Staff

Christo project – July 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, internationally famous artists, plan to hang translucent fabric over four to six miles of the Arkansas River in the Spikebuck area. The huge art project, called Over the River, likely won’t materialize until 1999 or later.

Panels of fabric will be suspended horizontally on steel cables that span the river, with sufficient clearance for floaters, and gaps for bridges, rocks, and trees. Funding comes not from grants, but from the sale of drawings, lithographs, and the like.

The Arkansas was selected after Christo (Javachef) and Jeanne-Claude (de Guillebon) toured the western United States for three summers and came up with six suitable sites: the Payette and Salmon rivers in Idaho, the Wind River of Wyoming, the upper Rio Grande in New Mexico, and the Cache la Poudre and Arkansas rivers in Colorado.

Last summer, the Arkansas got the nod as the stream that best offered “high banks so that steel cables can be suspended” and “white and tranquil waters used for rafting and canoeing.”

Christo and Jeanne-Claude have wrapped all over the world, from several miles of Australian coastline in 1979 to the Reichstag building in Berlin in 1995. This is their second work in Colorado. Their first was a curtain across Rifle Gap on the Western Slope in 1972. It employed nearly 100 people, comprised more than three acres of fabric that weighed four tons, and hung from 1,368 feet of steel cable. It lasted only 28 hours, though — Colorado winds are apparently quite demanding art critics.

If you want to know more about the Rifle Curtain, and Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the Denver Art Museum is running a special exhibit through September 14. It includes drawings, studies, scale models, even landowner agreements in its nearly 170 works.

For more information on that exhibit, you can reach the art museum at 3036404433 or on the Internet at

Now, to ponder the question of what Christo should drape, since the river is fairly attractive as it is. One of the prisons near CaƱon City? A ridge-line trophy house between Texas Creek and Westcliffe? The new Wal-Mart Superstore in Salida?