The Arc de Triomphe, one of the world’s most impressive monuments, is to be wrapped in silver-blue fabric and red rope in a tribute to the late artist Christo, who dreamed of the project for 60 years.
The Bulgarian-born master, born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, was determined that the project, devised with his French wife Jeanne-Claude in the early 1960s, should one day become reality even if they did not live to see it happen.
For years, they believed the French authorities would never consent to such a bold transformation of monument, which honours the country's war dead.
By the time Christo died aged 84 in May last year, 11 years after the death of his wife, the French gave consent.
“He was indeed aware of the project finally happening,” said Herve Marro, who works with the couple’s family.
“The planning evolved, however, because of the complicated year of the Covid-19 pandemic behind us.”
The swathing of the monument is one of two Christo projects that remained unfinished when he died, 64 years after he escaped Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe by hiding in a railway wagon carrying medical supplies.
There are also plans, still to be finalised, for the world’s largest sculpture, a mastaba using 410,000 oil barrels and rising 150 metres high, in the Liwa desert south of Abu Dhabi city.
The UAE was close to the couple’s hearts and they visited the country several times from 1979.
The wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe, using 25,000 square metres of fabric and 3,000 metres of red rope, all recyclable, will take 12 weeks.
The cost, £12 million ($16.9m), will come entirely from the proceeds of sales of Christo’s work.
The Arc de Triomphe’s new look will be a temporary exhibition from September 18 with the removal due to start on October 3.
The eternal flame will continue to burn in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and will be undisturbed by the work to build and dismantle the wrapping.
Other renowned works by Christo and his wife included wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin in 1995, four years before the building became home to the German parliament, and Paris's oldest standing bridge, the Pont-Neuf, 10 years earlier.
“Thirty-six years after the Pont-Neuf, one of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's most ambitious projects will finally see the light of day,” said Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris.
“The Arc de Triomphe will be wrapped according to Christo's plans to showcase this emblematic monument of our capital and our history.
“More than a year after Christo's death, Paris is continuing the work of this great artist, giving us the opportunity and to thank him and reaffirm our commitment to modern art.”
In line with Christo’s wishes, the project will be completed by his team working with the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, the French government body that manages the Arc de Triomphe.
Philippe Belaval, the centre's president, described the project as “an event of global resonance”.
“From everywhere, millions of eyes will be looking at this iconic monument of France and Paris's history," Mr Belavel said.
"After two difficult years, heritage and creation will unite to offer the public an unforgettable moment of shared joy."