PARIS – Visitors to Paris may be in for a surprise when strolling up the Champs-Elysees in September, when the Arc de Triomphe monument will be enveloped in a shimmering wrapper in a posthumous installation by artist Christo.
Workers have already erected some of the scaffolding around the 50-metre high, 19th century arch to set it up for the silvery blue, recyclable plastic wrapping, which will be on view between Sept. 18 and Oct. 3.
Imagined decades ago in 1961 by the late Bulgarian-born artist Christo and his wife and fellow artist Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped” was finally brought to life by Christo’s nephew, Vladimir Yavatchev.
“It’s just keeping a promise to him. It’s as simple as that,” Yavatchev told Reuters, adding that a few years before his death in 2020, Christo, who spent part of his life in Paris and in New York, said the one thing he had wanted to do above all else was to complete this project.
Christo had once rented a small room near the famed Champs-Elysees avenue after moving to Paris in 1958, when he experimented with wrapping discarded crates and barrels with fabric and rope, according to an official site about the artist.
Christo, whose full name is Christo Javacheff, was known for his larger-than-life installations. He wrapped up a stretch of coastline in Australia and the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin, and strung up a huge curtain in part of a canyon in Colorado. He worked closely with Jeanne-Claude on the projects.
The pair covered Paris’s Ponf Neuf bridge in yellow cloth in 1985.
The Arc de Triomphe project, involving the most visited monument in Paris that looms over one end of the Champs-Elysees, will still allow tourists to visit the site and its panoramic terrace. The monument is also home to a tribute to the Unknown Soldier, in the form of a flame of remembrance that is rekindled every day.
“Hopefully, Christo would be most happy, if somebody looks at it and says ‘it looks just like the drawings’,” Yavatchev said. (This story corrects date of Pont Neuf art installation in paragraph 7 to 1985 from 1975)