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Paris’s Arc de Triomphe Prepares to Get “Wrapped”

By Katherine LaGrave

Sep 13, 2021

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Fabric panels are being unfurled in front of the outer walls of the Arc de Triomphe in advance of the September 18 opening of “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped.”

Photo by Wolfgang Volz / 2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

Fabric panels are being unfurled in front of the outer walls of the Arc de Triomphe in advance of the September 18 opening of “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped.”

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

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From September 18 to October 3, 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 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Titled “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped,” the design will include approximately 270,000 square feet of silver and blue recyclable polypropylene fabric, which will be pinned around the Arc de Triomphe by nearly 10,000 feet of red rope, reports the Associated PressPreparations have already started on the Napoleon-era arch, where workers are covering statues to protect them from the wrapping.

The €14 million (US$16.5 million) 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; 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.

“He wanted to complete this project. He made us promise him that we will do it,” Vladimir Yavachev, the late artist’s nephew, told the Associated Press. 

During the installation, visitors will be able to touch the fabric at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, while those who choose to purchase tickets (€16, tickets.monuments-nationaux.fr) and climb to the monument’s roof terrace will get to step on the wrapping, as intended by the artists.

Visitors watch a video on the project in Paris in August 2021, before the installation goes up in September.

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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 was 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 commissioned in 2019 to install a permanent, €3 million (US$3.5 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

The Associated Press contributed to this article. This article was originally published in June 2019. It was updated with new information in July 2020, and again on August 31, 2021, and September 13, 2021.

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