Photos of “Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped,” Before the Silvery Fabric Comes Down

Home / Photos of “Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped,” Before the Silvery Fabric Comes Down

PARIS — Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s final public work, “L’Arc de Triomphe Empaqueté” or “The Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped,” finally opened in Paris earlier this month. Following lengthy delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and Christo’s untimely death in May 2020, the installation will be on view for a mere 16 days, through Sunday, October 3. Originally intended to coincide with the Centre Pompidou exhibition held in summer of 2020, “The Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped” instead exists as a standalone coda and silent memorial to the artist couple’s prolific career.

The idea to wrap the monument came to Christo in 1961 when he was an art student living in a small apartment not far from the Place de l’Étoile and was revived in 2017 with the planning of the Pompidou retrospective. Now, 60 years later, the posthumous realization was spearheaded by the couple’s nephew, Vladimir Yavachev, with support from the Christo & Jeanne-Claude Foundation and the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. 

While the final result might look effortless, its planning was far from it. Preparations required many months to navigate numerous bureaucratic hurdles, overcome technical challenges — such as the design of temporary scaffolding that would both protect the monument’s sculptural reliefs and not disrupt its nesting falcons — as well as select a date within the narrow window between Bastille Day celebrations in July and World War I commemorations in November, since the Arc de Triomphe is also home to the Tomb of Unknown Soldier and Europe’s first modern-day eternal flame. Additionally, the sheer scale of the project necessitated heroic efforts, comprising 269,000 square feet of silvery-blue polypropylene fabric, 32,300 square feet of red rope, and the combined efforts of 1,200 workers. (As with other temporary works by the duo, all materials used in the project are recyclable.)

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