Contemporary artist Christo is best known for his dramatic, temporary public art installations — from staging thousands of yellow and blue umbrellas throughout Japanese and Californian valleys to wrapping Berlin's Reichstag in fabric to draping saffron-coloured panels through New York's Central Park.

Along with his late wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude, he has been hailed for creating ambitious and engaging art that explores themes like impermanence and the natural versus the constructed environment. They are also held in high esteem for financing all their temporary installations through the sale of preparatory drawings, collages, scale models and original lithographs.

Over the River, his forthcoming project, is slated to unspool nearly 10 km of translucent fabric down a stretch of the Arkansas River in Colorado, which draws scores of rafters in the summertime, Christo told Jim Brown, guest host of CBC's Q cultural affairs show.

As with many of his public installations, the Bulgarian-born artist has been planning Over the River for many years. He says he scouted out 89 rivers in the Rocky Mountains — across different states — with Jeanne-Claude, before her death in 2009.


Artist couple Christo, left, and Jeanne-Claude are seen at the opening of The Gates in New York in 2005. The project festooned 37 km of Central Park's footpaths with billowing saffron-coloured fabric, ultimately attracting more than five million visitors and boosting New York's economy by $254 million US. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

"We finally choose the Arkansas River because it's so beautifully situated," he said in a phone interview from New York, where he is based.

The east-west orientation of the chosen stretch means "you have early morning light, middle of the day and gorgeous sunset," he added.

Proponents who have seen Christo's extensive preparatory work for Over the River anticipate it as a beautiful installation that will help spur tourism to the area, as did previous pieces like The Gates. However, some have criticized the outdoor artwork, saying it poses a danger to wildlife, the environs and residents. A local group known as Rags Over the Arkansas River (ROAR) is leading a protest against the project.

In his interview with Q, Christo reveals details about Over The River, discusses the use of fabric in classical art and in his own nomadic, "once-in-a-lifetime" work and answers critics and detractors blasting his creations.