FREMONT, Colo. – In a statement posted on the website of his Over the River project on January 25, Christo announced that he will shift his attention from that 20-year effort and concentrate exclusively on a project in the United Arab Emirates.

“After pursuing Over The River, Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado, for 20 years and going through 5 years of legal arguments, I no longer wish to wait on the outcome,” he writes.

“I have decided to devote all of my energy, time and resources into the realization of The Mastaba, Project for Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which Jeanne-Claude and I conceived 40 years ago.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Christo gave the decision a political dimension. “I use my own money and my own work and my own plans because I like to be totally free,” he said. “And here now, the federal government is our landlord. They own the land. I can’t do a project that benefits this landlord.”

Asked to elaborate, he said, “My decision process was that, like many others, I never believed that Trump would be elected.”

Christo began Over the River with his late wife and creative partner, Jeanne-Claude, in 1996. It involved draping polypropylene panels over steel cables along a 42-mile stretch of the Arkansas River in southern Colorado.

The project, which would have been installed on federal land, has faced intense opposition from local groups, who claim that it would endanger wildlife and cause other problems. But Christo got the go-ahead from the federal Bureau of Land Management, and has prevailed in a series of lawsuits brought by opponents in state and federal courts. A decision in the latest suit, in federal appeals court, had not yet come down when Christo made the decision to abandon the project.

The Mastaba project in Abu Dhabi is intended to be “the largest sculpture in the world,” according to Christo’s web site. It’s planned as a giant semi-pyramid made of 410,000 multi-colored barrels.


Read more about Over the River‘s history from a story in PAR issue 46, here.