Why is Paris’ Arc de Triomphe wrapped?

Published September 22, 2021, 7:19 PM

by John Legaspi

No, the famous monument is not under construction

Seeing Paris in France is like taking a stroll back in history with its marvelous architecture and beautiful cultural scenes. The go-to spots include the medieval Catholic cathedral Notre-Dame, the romantic Eiffel Tower, and, of course, the majestic Arc de Triomphe. But if ever you’re going to see the last one on-site or online, it may cause you a few head scratches as the 1836 symbol of France’s victory is, apparently, under wraps.

“L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped” (Photo by Wolfgang Volz)

Well, it is not being reconstructed or protected from public sight, if that’s what you are thinking. In fact, the cloth-covered arc is an art installation, a fulfillment of an artistic vision conceived 60 years ago by the late artistic duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Known for their site-specific environmental installations, which involve large landmarks and landscape elements wrapped in fabric, Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebo had an idea to cover the Paris monument with cloth since 1961. But it wasn’t until eight years after the death of Jeanne-Claude in 2009 when the project finally had a design.

Costing over $16 million, the project was funded by the sales of Christo’s prints and drawings. Though Christo passed last in 2020, the wrapping of the 160-feet tall landmarks was carried out by his team along with the help of Centre des Monuments Nationaux, Centre Pompidou, and the City of Paris, making their “life-long dream” a reality.

The installation began on July 15, 2021. And from Sept, 12 to 17 of the same year, fabric and ropes were added to the arc. Last Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, the installation dubbed “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped” was opened to the public. Thousands of Parisians saw a glistening view with the arc “wrapped in 25,000 square meters of recyclable polypropylene fabric in silvery blue and with 3,000 meters of red rope.”

Christo once said, “All our projects deal with reality. You are exposed to real things: real sun, wind, rain, fear, joy. That is why these projects are bigger than our own imaginations.” And the latest installation truly lives up to the expectations.

In the past, the couple had covered Paris’ Pont Neuf bridge (1985), Berlin’s Reichstag building (1995), and “The Gates” (2005) in Central Park in New York City.

The “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped” will be on view until Oct. 3, 2021. The dismantling of the artwork will start on Oct. 4 and will end by Nov. 10, 2021.