Since the beginning of the 60s, Christo had been imagining what it would be like to cover the Arc de Triomphe in fabric. His vision has finally been realized and can be visited between September 18th and October 3rd.
It was Christo’s first dream and it was also his last wish to come true. It was almost six decades ago that, seeing the Arc de Triomphe from the window of his apartment in Paris, the Bulgarian artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff first came up with the idea that would mark his career – wrap monuments and buildings in fabric.
Unfortunately, neither Christo nor his wife Jeanne-Claude are alive to see that idea finally come true. From the 18th of September until the 3rd of October, Parisians and tourists will be able to see the Arc de Triomphe packaged. The vision was realized by Vladimir Javacheff, a nephew of the couple.
The 50 meter high monument is entirely covered with 25,000 square meters of fabric of recycled silver polypropylene with blue highlights, tied by 3,000 meters of red rope. The installation took place 24 hours a day, in three eight-hour shifts, and required the work of 1200 people.
“It will be like a living object that will come to life with the wind and reflect the light“, Christo had explained when presenting his final project for the Arc de Triomphe, two years before his death, which took place in 2020 in New York.
The wrapping has a cost of 14 million euros, with its completion being fully paid for with the sale of the Christo Foundation’s drawings, models and lithographs. “To accompany the installation of a work like this, under the current circumstances, is magical”, says Bruno Cordeau, administrator of Arco do Triunfo.
The person responsible for the monument adds that the arch “is not a monument like the others”. “It’s national harmony. It is also a place of culture. Christo’s work has the elegance and humility of being ephemeral. After two weeks, it will disappear”, he says. Javacheff prefers to say “temporary“since the uncle did not like the term “ephemeral”.
“Posthumous testament to his artistic genius, the packaged Arc de Triomphe is a formidable gift to Parisians, the French and all art aficionados. Dear Christo, there in the stars, thank you for loving France so much and for giving us this incredible gift. Thank you for the genius, thank you for the madness, thank you for the poetry”, said the Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot, at the presentation of the project.
Also present at the presentation were Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris; Philippe Béval, President of the Center for National Monuments, Emmanuel Macron, President of France and also Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York.
Anne Hidalgo explained that the previous Parisian experience with Christo when the artist wrapped the Pont Neuf in 1985 was decisive in authorizing a repetition with the Arc de Triomphe. The mayor says that the bridge project helped “wake up this city“.
“Christo disturbs us, upsets us, makes us talk. There are those who like it and those who don’t, but, well, deep down this is the function of art that Christo proposed to us throughout his life. he takes us to feel alive“, praised Hidalgo.
The work is not consensual due to the fabric waste at a time when the fashion industry is so criticized because of the so-called fast fashion, this being one of the criticisms of the architect Carlo Ratti, Christo’s friend. However, Yavacheff replied that the fabric is recyclable, as is half the metal used for scaffolding.