Paris’s Arc de Triomphe Gets “Wrapped”

One of Paris’s biggest landmarks is playing host to a long-delayed Christo and Jeanne-Claude installation from September 18 to October 3, 2021.

Paris’s Arc de Triomphe Gets “Wrapped”

The $16.4 million project is being financed through the sale of Christo’s preparatory studies, drawings, scale models, and other pieces of work.

Photo by AP Photo/Lewis Joly

For the next three weeks, the Arc de Triomphe is undergoing something of a makeover thanks to the late artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who conceived the idea of “wrapping” the landmark back in 1961.

Titled “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped,” the design includes approximately 270,000 square feet of silver and blue recyclable polypropylene fabric pinned around the Arc de Triomphe by nearly 10,000 feet of red rope. The installation on the Napoleon-era arch opened on Saturday, September 18, and will remain there until October 3.

During the installation, visitors are invited 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.

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On weekends, the Arc de Triomphe’s traffic-heavy roundabout will be entirely pedestrianized.

Photo by AP Photo/Lewis Joly

The wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe has been installed posthumously; Christo passed away on May 31, 2020, at age 84. His late wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude died in 2009. That the artists are not alive to see the installation shouldn’t deter interested visitors.

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

Initially slated to run in April 2020, the €14 million (US$16.4 million) project was initially bumped to September 2020 before the 2021 move because kestrel falcons nest on the monument each spring, according to French newspaper Le Figaro.

However, the “wrapping” period was delayed yet again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was meant to overlap with a related exhibit at the city’s Pompidou Center that ran from July 1 through October 19, 2020. Dedicated to the work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the Pompidou show included an inside look at some of their other projects, including “The Pont-Neuf Wrapped, Project for Paris, 1975–85.”

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Visitors are allowed to touch the silver and blue fabric—as the artists had intended.

Photo by AP Photo/Lewis Joly

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, September 13, 2021, and September 20, 2021.

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Katherine LaGrave is a deputy editor at AFAR focused on features and essays.
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