Christo’s unrealized final dream to wrap the Arc de Triomphe in Paris has finally come to fruition, more than a year after the artist’s death.
French president Emmanuel Macron inaugurated the monumental project on Thursday, saying, “This is the achievement of a 60-year-old dream, a crazy dream come true.” The project officially opens to the public on September 18.
The installation of the spectacular project, which involved wrapping the famed Paris monument in some 25,000-square-meters of silvery blue polypropylene fabric, and 3,000 meters of recyclable red polypropylene rope, has been underway since July.
Finally complete, the ephemeral artistic project will be on view for just 16 days. It will begin being removed on October 3 and is slated to be fully dismantled by November 10. It can be seen from the perspective of all 12 avenues that lead into the Place de l’Étoile, which will also be pedestrianized for the weekends the installation is up.
L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped was first conceived by Christo with his longtime artistic collaborator and life partner, Jeanne-Claude, in 1961, although it was never formally proposed until 2017.
Originally, the project was meant to coincide with Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s exhibition at the Centre Pompidou last year but was delayed because of the pandemic. Christo died in May 2020, without being able to see the project completed (Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009). “It will be like a living object which will move in the wind and reflect the light. With its moving folds, the monument’s surface will become sensual. People will want to touch the Arc de Triomphe,” Christo said.
The €14 million project has been entirely funded by the sale of Christo’s artworks, without being supplemented by public funds. Its final realization was overseen by Vladimir Yavachev, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s nephew, along with the Center of Monuments Nationaux. (Visitors will still be able to access the interiors and panoramic terrace of the monument throughout the project)
“As Christo liked to say, ‘Our projects are alive,’ and today L’Arc de Triomphe has come to life,” Yavachev said in a statement. “Christo approved every visual aspect of this project, and in a way it is a memorial to the life and work Christo and Jeanne-Claude created together in Paris and across the world, which always exceeded what we believe to be possible.”
Originally hailing from Bulgaria, Christo met Jeanne-Claude in the city shortly after he took refuge there from communism in 1958. “It was in Paris, the city where they met, that their love and artistic relationship was born, and it is for Paris that they have conceived many artistic projects,” French culture minister Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin said, praising the “audacity” of the artist couple.
Indeed, the pair realized their very first public intervention, Wall of Oil Barrels – The Iron Curtain, on Rue Visconti in 1962, as a poetic statement responding to the building of the Berlin Wall the previous year. And couple wrapped Paris’s oldest bridge, Pont Neuf, 36 years ago.
The culture minister added that L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped epitomized “the essential connection between heritage and artistic contemporary creation,” adding, “I wish for all visitors to be taken away by the poetry of this crazy and magnificent artistic gesture on such an iconic monument.”
“L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris, 1961-2021” by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, will be on view from September 18 through October 3 in Paris, France. See more pictures of the installation of the monumental project below.