After six decades, Christo’s vision for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris is a reality.
On Saturday, the monument, shrouded in fabric as part of the late artist’s concept for a temporary art installation L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, was officially inaugurated and is currently open to the public until October.
Visitors have already begun gathering around the arch, with some accessing the terrace of the Arc de Triomphe, which has also been draped in fabric and rope.
At the weekend, Paris’s Place de l’Etoile, where the monument is located, will be closed to vehicle traffic in order for pedestrians to see the work.
For 12 weeks, more than 1,000 workers had been installing silvery blue recyclable plastic curtains over the 50-metre arch, eventually unfurling the material over the structure.
A total of 25,000 square metres of fabric have been used, as well as 3,000 metres of red rope cinching the curtains and keeping the shape of the monument intact.
In English, the project has been titled L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, while in French it is L’Arc de Triomphe Empaquete, translated as “packaged”.
A live view of the work can be seen on YouTube:
The idea for the work was first imagined by the artist Christo in the 1960s. Born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff in Bulgaria in 1935, he escaped the Soviet Union and ended up in Paris in 1958. There, he met Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, who would became his wife and artistic collaborator until her death in 2009.
Throughout their career, living in Paris and then New York, Christo and Jeanne-Claude became known for turning public monuments into art through the process of wrapping them in distinct fabrics and materials. In 1985, they draped Paris’s oldest bridge the Pont Neuf in fabric, and then undertook a similar project in 1985 with the German parliament building. Their installations require rigorous planning, with meticulous instructions outlined by the artists, though the works are ephemeral and are taken down after a certain timeframe.
In his final years, Christo focused on completing L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped until his death at 84 in 2020. After his death, the French government gave its consent to the Arc de Triomphe project. The artist left specific instructions on how the work would be executed, and his nephew Vladimir Yavachev served as project director for the installation, moving from New York to Paris two years ago.
The cost, totalling £12 million ($16.9m), has been sourced entirely from the proceeds of the artist’s work.
The Arc de Triomphe’s eternal flame in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier continues to be lit uninterrupted by the artwork and its set-up. The work will be on view until Sunday, October 3.
The opening of L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped proves that Christo's artistic vision transcends his death. Even today, there are still unrealised projects by the artist waiting to be fulfilled.