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Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Over the River, A Work in Progress at The Phillips Collection
Over the River, Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado, Drawing 1999, In two parts: 15 in. x 65 in. and 42 in. x 65 in. Pencil, charcoal, pastel, wax crayon, enamel paint, photograph by Wolfgang Volz,
topographic, and tape, Copyright Christo, 1999.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Last seen swathing New York’s Central Park in waves of saffron fabric for their project The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005, internationally acclaimed artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude are preparing to suspend silvery fabric panels horizontally over the Arkansas River in Colorado. An extensive exhibition, the first to survey the artists’ preparations for their next widely anticipated work of art, will go on view at The Phillips Collection beginning Oct. 11, 2008. Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Over the River, A Work in Progress will trace the development of this ambitious project over the last 16 years, featuring approximately 200 items such as preparatory collages and drawings, photographs, technical diagrams, maps, and fabric panels with the hardware that will anchor them. Revealing the fascinating process the couple will use to accomplish this artistic and engineering feat, the exhibition will remain on view through Jan. 25, 2009, and will be followed by a tour.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Over the River, A Work in Progress is a detailed look at the artists’ plans for their next temporary outdoor work of art. For nearly three years, the pair traveled 14,000 miles, visiting 89 rivers in seven Rocky Mountain states to find the location for Over the River. Together with Vince Davenport, chief engineer/director of construction and Jonita Davenport, project director, they ultimately selected the Arkansas River, between Salida and Canon City in southcentral Colorado, in large part because it is one of the most heavily rafted rivers in the United States.

The exhibition will chart chronologically the stages of the project’s development from its inception in 1992 through 2008. It will feature drawings and collages, many of which are annotated with information on how the panels will be presented, showing the progression of the artists’ ideas. The maps will illustrate the course of the river, the photographs will chronicle trips the artists have made to the site for the permitting and engineering process, and the hardware and fabric panels will show the materials the artists will use in the final installation. Christo’s complex preparatory drawings and collages will reveal his extraordinary skill as a draftsman and offer insights into the conceptualization of the project from a variety of perspectives. Films examining the artists’ most famous projects will also be on view.

“For more than 40 years, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects have transcended the traditional boundaries of art, profoundly shaping the way in which we see and experience our environment,” said Dorothy Kosinski, director of The Phillips Collection. “This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to closely examine the scope and history of the next major work of art by these legendary artists.”

For Over the River, the artists plan to suspend horizontally 5.9 miles of silvery, luminous, and translucent fabric panels high above a 40-mile stretch of the Arkansas River. Attached to approximately 1,000 steel cables, the fabric panels will be eight to 25 feet above the water and follow the configuration and changing course of the river. Seen from underneath, the fabric will highlight the contours of the clouds, mountains, and vegetation. The road running alongside the river will allow the work of art to be viewed from above, where the glistening fabric will play off the natural light—transitioning from shimmering pink in the morning to shiny silver in midday to golden as the sun sets.

The installation will consist of eight distinct sections varying from 0.3 to 2.5 miles in length. These waves of panels will be interrupted by bridges, rocks, and trees, leaving a total of 34.1 miles of the river and natural landscape untouched. Through its intermittent installation, Over the River will project a fleeting, ephemeral quality as it appears in the landscape, then disappears without a trace.

Over the River has required a lengthy permitting process and the artists continue to work closely with nearby communities, local governments, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and many other agencies. Christo and Jeanne-Claude have requested an Environmental Impact Statement at their own expense, the first developed for a work of art. The $40 million project, paid for entirely by the artists, will be on display for two weeks in summer 2012, at the earliest.

For decades Christo and Jeanne-Claude have used fabric in urban and rural sites. They were both born on June 13, 1935—he in Bulgaria to an industrialist family, she in Morocco to a French military family. The artists met in Paris in 1958 and began their professional partnership in 1961. Since that time, they have collaborated on monumental projects around the world, all of which have become icons of environmental art. These endeavors include Wrapped Coast, Little Bay, Australia, 1968-69; Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76; The Pont-Neuf Wrapped, Paris, 1975-85; Surrounded Islands, Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami, Florida, 1980-83; Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971-95; and most recently The Gates, Central Park, New York City, 1979-2005.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work has been featured in museum exhibitions in the United States, Australia, Europe, and Asia, and is included in the permanent collections of 188 museums worldwide. For more information about the artists, visit

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Over the River, A Work in Progress is organized by The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., and is made possible with the generous support of Edgar H. and Janet M. Brenner. Coordinating curator at the Phillips is Renée Maurer. A companion book, Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Over the River, Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado, A Work in Progress, will be available in the Museum Shop for $49.99. Following its debut at the Phillips, the exhibition will open Feb. 12, 2009 at the Fondation de l’Hermitage, Lausanne, Switzerland, and travel to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center in 2011.

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