Christo shows 'Over The River' concepts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8. He donated the panels to the museum.
The artist Christo calls it artwork that mimics nature, but his plan to drape nearly six miles of aluminum-coated fabric across the top of the Arkansas River has enemies in the environmental community – including two law students and a professor at the University of Denver who helped a local group file a lawsuit Wednesday against the project.
"We are planning to vanquish the giant with the help of these great lawyers from the University of Denver," Joan Anzelmo, a spokesperson for plaintiff Rags Over the Arkansas River, told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Denver where the suit was filed.
Christo, whose massive art displays often prove controversial, himself was visiting the area this week to build up support for his "Over the River" project.
Steve Coffin, a lawyer for Christo, told msnbc.com that Christo's team was confident the project "will withstand legal scrutiny."
In a video describing the project, Christo says he expects "the fabric moving with the wind. It will be unbelievable to see that. The fabric will start to move like surf in the ocean."
A project website, overtheriverinfo.com, states that plans are to display the fabric for two weeks, possibly by August 2014. Christo estimates it will cost $50 million and he intends to pay for it through the sale of original artwork tied to the exhibition.
Christo describes his Over the River project.
The lawsuit targets the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which manages the Arkansas River and approved the project. Christo intends to hang 5.9 miles of fabric in pieces over a 42-mile stretch of the river in Colorado.
The students were assisted by Michael Harris, head of the law school's environmental law clinic, who told reporters that, while the artwork will only be displayed for two weeks, the work to prepare it is akin to an industrial operation that will scar the river and canyon area around it.
Watch the press conference announcing the lawsuit.
"Christo has been able to work the system. He's been able to convince people that this is just a two-week period that will be so beneficial for the people of Colorado," Harris said. "For two years they're going to be in this canyonland, drilling holes, 9,100 holes, sometimes 30 feet deep to place anchors to hold all this in place."
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