The Voeten Collection represents a unique combination of both Belgian and international works. Currently it comprises over 1700 art pieces that have been collected during a period of more than 40 years. They are exhibited in two separate locations – at the Art Center close to Herentals and at the sculpture park near Gheel.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Over The River, Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado, 2005, collage, pastel, pencil on paper, 39,5 en 107,5 x 244 cm

The collage and preparatory drawing Over The River (2005) that is part of the Collection Hugo Voeten provides an insight in one of the monumental land art projects of the Bulgarian-American artist Christo (Bulgaria, °1935) and his wife the French Jeanne-Claude (Morocco, 1935 - United States of America, 2009). The idea for the project Over The River rose during the 'wrapping' of the Pont Neuf in Paris in 1985: while lifting up a fabric panel over the Seine the artist duo saw the sun shining through the material in the water. In 1992 they started, together with their team, the quest to find a suitable location for Over The River. It took three years before they found the right spot. They traveled a long way of more than 22 000 km in the Rocky Mountains, where most of the American rivers rise. Eighty-nine rivers in seven states and six possible locations were documented during that trip.

In 1996 Christo and Jeanne-Claude decided that the Arkansas River – more specifically the part of this river between Salida and Cañon City, on the eastern hillside of the Rocky Mountains, where the banks are high enough – was the perfect place for Over The River. Over a distance of eleven kilometers the river would be covered with transparent fabric panels, that would be attached, horizontally and seven meters above water level, to steel cables anchored in the banks. The artwork would only be on view for two weeks in a summer period and it would take 27 months to realize it and another three to remove it. This temporary and transient aspect is characteristic for the oeuvre of Christo and for land art, the art movement wherein artists work in and with the landscape. The choice of fabric as a material for many of the duo's installations refers to the volatile nature of their projects.

"The temporary quality of the projects is an aesthetic decision. Our works are temporary in order to endow the works of art with a feeling of urgency to be seen, and the love and tenderness brought by the fact that they will not last."

The red circle on the upper part of this work, a part of a topographic map, marks the place that Christo drew on the drawing of the lower part. This image shows the view of a group of rafters and refers to photographs made by Wolfgang Volz (°1948, Tuttlingen, Germany), who was since 1971 the photographer of the duo's projects. The text that Christo wrote on the topographic map describes the location of the project: Over the River (Project for Arkansas River, State of Colorado) Fremont and Chaffee Counties, US # 50, Union Pacific, Parkdale Siding Spike Buck, Texas Creek, Coto Paxi, Howard, Swissvale, Wellsville, Salida.

Until today, Over The River has still not been realized. The project arose many different reactions, as it is often the case with the works of Christo. Proponents hope for a touristic boom, opponents fear that the project would harm the visual appeal of the landscape and the ecosystem of the river. The cost of the project amounts to approximately 36 000 million euro. As in previous projects, Over The River would be financed by Christo himself with the sale of preparatory drawings, collages, scale models, photographs and early works from the fifties and sixties of the twentieth century. Without subsidies or sponsorship, the artist will bear all the costs related to this temporary work of art, such as the environmental analysis, air traffic control, garbage disposal, sanitation, etc.

Other known and grand projects of Christo and Jeanne-Claude are for example Wrapped Reichstag (1995) in Berlin, Wrapped Trees (1998) in the Fondation Beyeler and Berower Park in Riehen near Basel in Switzerland, The Gates (2005) in Central Park in New York, Running Fence in California (1976) and The Mastaba (conceived in 1977). It was with its 'packaging art' or 'wrapping art', which he started in 1958, that Christo largely gained fame. The same year, he met his future wife Jeanne Claude in Paris. The couple always worked closely together. Jeanne-Claude played an important role in the projects of her husband and was mostly responsible for the public relations and negotiations. Decisions on creative and logistical issues were always taken jointly by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Therefore it is of great importance that they are mentioned together as artists.

More information about the project Over The River:

Text: Myriam Geurts