Christo’s Ambitious Arc de Triomphe Wrap Is Underway

Work has kicked off to wrap Paris’s Arc de Triomphe in silvery-blue fabric as a tribute to the late Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who dreamed of realizing the project for six decades.

Christo with a preparatory drawing for "L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped," in 2019. Photography Wolfgang Volz, courtesy Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

Soon after Christo left his native Bulgaria and eventually migrated to Paris, where he met his wife and creative partner, Jeanne-Claude, in the 1960s, he rented an apartment on the Champs-Élysées near the Arc de Triomphe. For decades, the environmental artist dreamed of wrapping the monumental war memorial in silvery-blue fabric. Though the duo wrapped the city’s oldest bridge in 1985 and German parliament one decade later, their Arc de Triomphe project never materialized before his death last May. 

That’s changing this year thanks to the work of his nephew, Vladimir Javacheff, who’s overseeing L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou and French authorities. Work recently kicked off, and three crews will toil “around the clock” to hit the target inauguration date of September 18. Initial work involves building scaffolding and protective equipment to safeguard the 19th-century Neoclassical monument’s stonework and sculptures during the wrapping process, which will incorporate 270,000 square feet of recyclable polypropylene fabric and nearly 10,000 feet of red rope. “It will be like a living object stimulated by the wind and reflecting the light,” Christo said. “The folds will move and the monument’s surface will become sensual. People are going to want to touch the Arc de Triomphe.”

Image courtesy Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

To help finance the intervention Sotheby’s will host a concurrent selling exhibition, called “The Final Christo,” that features 25 paper works spanning maps, architectural plans, photographs, and engineering drawings that recount the artwork’s history from concept to creation. Samples of the fabric being used to wrap the monument will also be for sale. Works will range in price from $150,000 to $2.5 million, with proceeds benefiting both the project—estimated to cost $16.5 million—and the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation, which was established to safeguard the duo’s legacy for future generations. “Our work of art is a scream of freedom. To keep that absolute freedom, we cannot be obliged to anyone,” Christo and Jeanne-Claude once said, asserting their artistic independence by refusing sponsorships, grants, volunteer labor, and all forms of merchandising and monetizing.  

“These works made possible the seminal projects that dominated Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s later career,” Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s vice chairman, said in a statement. “Their sale was the sole means of funding their public projects. While the nature of these installations was always to be temporary, lasting only a matter of days, they live forever in two places: in the collective imagination and in Christo’s breathtaking original works.” When the installation is finally unveiled, on September 18, it will be on public view until October 3—only 16 days. Until then, enjoy a generous live-stream of the artwork coming to fruition: 

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