It took £14 million, some 1,200 workers, nearly 270,000 square feet of fabric, and 7,000 meters of rope to make it happen.
A shrouded Arc de Triomphe greeted Parisians at the French capital’s Champs-Élysées. The star attraction’s transformation is a tribute to the late artists Christo and Jeanne Claude.
Aptly called Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, the installation is the artist duo’s final project for France.
In the last two months, some 1,200 workers draped nearly 270,000 square feet of shimmering, recyclable fabric over the monument, tied in place by 7,000 meters of red rope. All of this cost £14 million, funded by the sales made from Christo and Jeanne Claude’s preparatory studies, drawings, scale models, and other pieces of work.
For 16 days, visitors can see and touch the installation freely as the large Place Charles de Gaulle road junction surrounding the monument has been closed to vehicles. Its terrace is also open for observers.
Idea into reality
The project is not entirely unusual considering that Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always been known for their large-scale works that transform public spaces.
Their first major environmental project in 1968 called Wrapped Coast—One Million Square Feet involved wrapping a mile and a half of rugged coast and cliffs up along the coast of Little Bay in southeast Sydney.
It took 17,000 hours of manpower over a period of four weeks to make it happen. It remained wrapped for 10 weeks.
In 1975, the couple transformed Paris’ oldest bridge, Pont Neuf, and covered its entirety—lamps included—in 440,000 square feet of golden fabric and 36,300 feet of rope. Around 300 workers were needed to complete the $2.5 million project.
In 1995, after 24 years of attempt to get permission from the German Parliament, the artists were able to wrap the Reichstag in Berlin. The work, called Wrapped Reichstag, was on view for just two weeks.
The idea of wrapping the Arc de Triomphe—a monument that honors those who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars—was conceived even earlier, in 1961, to be exact.
It was only in 2017, however—eight years after Jeanne-Claude’s death—that Christo fully developed the design.
Delayed by the pandemic and Christo’s passing in 2020, the project was carried out by his team along with the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, Centre Pompidou, and the City of Paris.
Unveiling the installation, according to project director Vladimir Yavachev in a Dezeen report, is a life-long dream come true for the artist duo and couple.
Christo previously said that the fabric and rope will move in the wind and reflect light like it’s “a living object” that “people will want to touch.”
France’s culture minister has called the work “a testimony of artistic genius,” and “a formidable gift offered to Parisians, the French and beyond, and to all art lovers.”
But not everyone is delighted to see the installation.
French journalist Christine Kelly, host of a primetime news program, posted a photo of the installation, along with her thoughts on the work.
“J’ai honte. Désolée [I am ashamed. Sorry,]” the tweet reads.
It went viral and sparked a debate on the project while visitors flocked the area to see the installation and take photos. In an Independent UK report, an observer was quoted saying that upon seeing the work, “a big gray elephant placed in Paris on the Champs-Elysee” comes to mind.
“Many have difficulty reading [into] our projects,” Christo said during the opening of London Mastaba, his final project before he passed away. “But every interpretation is legitimate.”
Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped will be on display until October 3.
Banner Photo by Benjamin Loyseau from @christojeanneclaude on IG