Art vs. money vs. nature

Cite this Article
Larry Ribstein, Art vs. money vs. nature, Truth on the Market (September 12, 2010),

Friday’s WSJ reported on Christo’s project to dress 42 miles of the Arkansas River. Christo does spectacular art that usually intrudes, at least temporarily, on nature. In this case it seems he may have met his Waterloo.

Interest groups are lining up at the BLM to have their say. The nature lovers want nature for themselves, particularly the part of it that’s in their backyards. The WSJ says that, for them, Christo is an “eco-terrorist.” They told the WSJ that

  • It’s “our canyon” and “art is not supposed to play God over the elements” [leaving me to wonder whether it was their canyon or God’s]
  • “Hanging rags over the river is the same as hanging pornography in a church” [well, since it’s God’s, it must be a church]
  • And, the bottom line: “I couldn’t care less about Christo’s artistic vision. We have to live here.”

On the other hand, art lovers like seeing Christo’s reinterpretation of nature, if only briefly and from afar. Some of the neighbors like the jobs and tourists.

Nature didn’t have much to say about what it wanted.

The BLM is ultimately going to decide this, probably leaving about 50% of the interest groups unhappy.

Perhaps if we can get past God, spreading around enough money could satisfy everybody. In order for this to happen, somebody needs to capture the full economic value of this project and then pay off the other claimants. While Christo sells his art to support the lawyers and other logistics, he probably can’t sell enough sketches to pay all the neighbors. Too bad, then, that he “shuns corporate sponsors,” according to the WSJ.

So probably everybody is going to stay pure and unhappy.