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Paris’s Arc de Triomphe Will Get “Wrapped” in September 2021

By Katherine LaGrave

Jul 9, 2020

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The Arc de Triomphe, one of the most popular landmarks in Paris, was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806.

Photo by Pigprox/Shutterstock

The Arc de Triomphe, one of the most popular landmarks in Paris, was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806.

One of Paris’s biggest landmarks will finally play host to a long-delayed Christo installation.

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In the fall of 2021, the Arc de Triomphe will get something of a makeover thanks to Bulgarian-born artist Christo, whose “wrapping” of the landmark was set to occur in March 2020 but was delayed due to the coronavirus. 

Titled “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris, Place de l’Étoile-Charles de Gaulle),” the design will include approximately 270,000 square feet of blue recyclable polypropylene fabric, which will be pinned around the Arc de Triomphe by 23,000 feet of red rope, reports the New York Times. The project has already been pushed back once before: Initially slated to run in April 2020, it was bumped to September 2020 before the 2021 move because kestrel falcons nest on the monument each spring, according to French newspaper Le Figaro.

Christo’s wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe will be installed posthumously, as the artist passed away on May 31, 2020, at age 84. That Christo is not alive to see the installation shouldn’t deter interested visitors, Jonathan Fineberg, a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, told the New York Times. Of Christo’s team, which he called “extraordinarily competent,” Fineberg said, “They know exactly what Christo wanted to do, and Christo wanted this project to be built whether he was there or not.”

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This “wrapping” period was originally meant to overlap with a related exhibit at the city’s Pompidou Center. Running from July 1 through October 19, 2020, the Pompidou show is dedicated to the work of Christo and his late wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009. It includes an inside look at some of their other projects, including “The Pont-Neuf Wrapped, Project for Paris, 1975–85.”

Danish Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, meanwhile, was in 2019 commissioned to install a permanent, €3 million (US$3.4 million) light installation at the Arc de Triomphe, reports The Art Newspaper. The project will be funded by Fonds pour Paris (Paris Foundation), which was established in 2015 by current Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to raise money from the private sector for public art.

Eliasson’s proposal for the project is still being finalized, however, and Anne-Céline Delvert, deputy director of Fonds pour Paris, said that it remains to be seen whether or not it can actually be done, “due to the technical difficulties involved.” There is currently no information posted about when exactly Eliasson’s would-be installation might debut.

Promoting an artsy Arc de Triomphe has motivations beyond the strictly aesthetic: Paris is hosting the 2024 Olympics, and Hidalgo has been vocal about cleaning up the city and burnishing its image

This article was originally published in June 2019. It was updated with new information in July 2020.

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