Bulgarian-American artist Christo and his wife and artistic partner Jeanne Claude rose to fame in the second half of the 20th century by wrapping historic buildings, including the German Reichstag and Paris’ Pont Neuf, in fabric.
Yet despite his prolific career, the famous installation artist still had something on his bucket list when he died in his New York home in May 2020, at the age of 84: wrapping the Arc de Triomphe. On 18 September, his wish came true posthumously, as Parisians woke up to the sight of the capital’s landmark covered in silver and blue fabric.
First postponed in 2019 due to the Notre-Dame fire, and then in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped” will finally open officially on 18 September. The Parisian monument will remain covered for about two weeks.
The project had been in the making since 1962, when Christo sketched a drawing of the installation. The same diagram was used by engineering firm Schlaich Bergermann Partner to develop a cage structure that would hold the fabric without damaging the Arc’s structure.
Aside from creating for “joy” and “beauty”, Christo allegedly wanted to wrap the Paris landmark to turn it into “a living object”: a tribute to the city which captivated him as an artist. Christo and Jeanne Claude recycled all materials from their artworks after use, and self-financed their installations, which the pair saw as a sign of independence from the art world. Christo famously described himself as an “educated Bulgarian-Marxist who has learned to use capitalism for his art.” The cost of the installation — some £11.9m — is reported to come from the late artist’s own funds.