Nearly 60 Years Ago, Christo Came Up With a Plan to Wrap the Arc de Triomphe. Now, His Dream Will Become Reality

The 83-year-old artist is revisiting the wrapping technique for the first time since his wife and collaborator Jeanne-Claude died a decade ago.

Christo, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris - Place de l’Etoile – Charles de Gaulle). © 2019 Christo. Photo:
Christo, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris - Place de l’Etoile – Charles de Gaulle). © 2019 Christo. Photo: André Grossmann.

In 1961, three years after moving to Paris and meeting his wife and lifelong artistic partner Jeanne-Claude, Christo hatched a plan to wrap the Arc de Triomphe in fabric, a move that would become his signature. Now, nearly 60 years later, that dream is finally being realized.

For two weeks days next spring, the 83-year-old Bulgaria-born artist will deploy nearly 270,000 square feet of blue recyclable polypropylene fabric and roughly 23,000 feet of red rope to wrap the Parisian landmark. The artwork, titled l’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris, Place de l’Étoile-Charles de Gaulle), is the artist’s first in the French capital since wrapping the Pont-Neuf with Jeanne-Claude in 1985. It’s also the first time revisiting the wrapping technique since she died in 2009.

“Jeanne-Claude was so close to me all my life,” the artist told the New York Times. “Of course there is some irony and sadness that she is not here. But I am eager to go ahead with my life and do my work.”

Christo, <i>L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris - Place de l’Etoile – Charles de Gaulle)</i>. © 2019 Christo. Photo by André Grossmann.

Christo, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped (Project for Paris – Place de l’Etoile – Charles de Gaulle). Photo by André Grossmann, ©2019 Christo.

The project will be overseen by the Centre Pompidou and France’s Center for National Monuments, and will be accompanied by an exhibition at the museum looking back at Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s life and work in Paris from 1958 to 1964, as well as the Pont-Neuf Wrapped project conceived and executed over a decade beginning in 1975. The show is set to run from March 18 to June 15, 2020.

The affair is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s relationship is one of the art world’s most irresistible romances, after all, and it started in the City of Light. The two artists, born on the same day in 1935, met in Paris in 1958 and began their 50-year partnership shortly thereafter. In the seven years they spent in the city, the duo laid out plans for five public projects, two of which—Wall of Oil Barrels – The Iron Curtain, Rue Visconti (1961–62) and Wrapped Statue, Place du Trocadéro (1964)—were completed. Now, a third will be checked off the list.   

As is the custom with Christo’s works, the artist will receive no public funds for the project, nor will he seek independent private funding. The project will instead be financed entirely through sales of preparatory studies, drawings, and collages, as well as other works dating back to the 1950s and ’60s.


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