'L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped' embodies Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s ephemeral art

L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped, Paris, is yet another addition to Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s body of work dotted with the experimental spirit of the creative imagination.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Sep 25, 2021

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris is ‘wrapped’ in 25,000 square meters of recyclable silvery-blue polypropylene fabric and 3,000 meters of recyclable red polypropylene rope. The project Wrapped, realised by the artists Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude was completed by his team in partnership with the Centre des monuments nationaux (CMN) and with the support of the Centre Pompidou and Ville de Paris. The venture is thoroughly funded by the sale of original artworks by Christo, including preparatory studies and collages, models, works from the 1950s and 1960s, and lithographs.

L'Arc de Triumph, Wrapped (Project for Paris) Place de l'Etoile, Charles de Gaulle Collage | Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
L'Arc de Triumph, Wrapped (Project for Paris) Place de l'Etoile, Charles de Gaulle Collage Image: ©2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

To give a brief about the artist Christo, who passed away last summer in 2020, was born in 1935 in Bulgaria, studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Sofia and fled communist Bulgaria in 1957 only to settle in Paris in March 1958. Within a few months of his arrival, Christo met Jeanne-Claude, who was born in 1935 in Casablanca, Morocco. Before calling New York their home in 1964, the artist-duo had already spent seven years in Paris – the stay had rightly given wings to their artistic imagination.

Christo in his studio working on a preparatory drawing for L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, New York City | Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
Christo in his studio working on a preparatory drawing for L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, New York City Image: ©2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

It was 60 years ago when Christo and Jeanne-Claude had met in Paris. It was during the same time that the artist Christo had begun making artworks with fabric. The duo first collaborated in Paris to create the Wall of Oil Barrels - The Iron Curtain, a ‘public intervention’ on Rue Visconti. The installation completed in 1962 was the artists’ way to address the coming of the Berlin Wall. Christo played with the creative imagination to achieve its pinnacle with the works he created. Christo and Jeanne-Claude had collectively thought of the artistic project to wrap the Arc de Triomphe.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude at The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris | Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
Christo and Jeanne-Claude at The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Paris Image: ©2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

In 1962-1963, he created a photomontage with L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, seen from Foch Avenue, and again featured the Arc de Triomphe wrapped in a collage in 1988. Christo began actively developing this project in 2017, and now 60 years later, it is finally being realised. Christo had mentioned, “It will be like a living object which will move in the wind and reflect the light. With its moving folds, the monument's surface will become sensual. People will want to touch the Arc de Triomphe.”

To protect the four sculptures at the base of the monument, steel cages are being installed in front of the pillars for L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped | Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
To protect the four sculptures at the base of the monument, steel cages are being installed in front of the pillars for L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped Image: ©2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

Roselyne Bachelot, Minister of Culture, France, in her statement in an official release says, “Christo and Jeanne-Claude were audacious artists. Audacity was necessary to imagine and realise projects which they were often the only ones to believe in. For over 50 years, sometimes against all odds, they have illuminated the world with their distinctive vision. Nothing seemed impossible to these artists of the ephemera. With their monumental actions in public space, they have managed to make their way into the public’s heart.”

Fabric panels are being unfurled in front of the outer walls of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris | Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
Fabric panels are being unfurled in front of the outer walls of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris Image: ©2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

The project was submitted to the Centre des Monuments Nationaux by the Centre Pompidou, which organised the exhibition Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Paris! in 2020, and is supported by the City of Paris. The Centre des monuments national, which ensures the conservation and opening of the Arc de Triomphe on behalf of the national state, is pleased about the realisation of a project that demonstrates its commitment to contemporary art creation and honours one of the most emblematic monuments in Paris and France.

Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, sees the work as an embodiment of the democratic value, “A tribute to the two deceased artists, this temporary and spectacular work is also a tribute to the process of creation and to the artistic freedom that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of sculpture and architecture and thus creates a work which is alive, and open to all; an artwork which everyone can make their own.”

Fabric panels are being put in place and secured on the roof of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris | Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
Fabric panels are being put in place and secured on the roof of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris Image: ©2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

In 1806, Napoleon I decreed that an arch be built on the Place de l’Etoile in the glory of the Grande Armée. The Arc de Triomphe stands as a symbol of national unity and is ornamented with four groups of sculpted figures by François Rude, Jean-Pierre Cortot and Antoine Etex. The frieze running around the entablature recounts the departure and return of the French armies.

Fabric panels are being unfurled in front of the outer walls of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris | Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
Fabric panels are being unfurled in front of the outer walls of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris Image: ©2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

The architect, Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin, had not made any plans for the ornamentation of the inside of the monument. It was in 1835 that the idea emerged to inscribe on the underside of the vault decorated with Roman-style panels the names of the 128 battles of the First Republic and the Empire, together with the names of the generals who had taken part in them.

01 min watch Time-lapse of the opening day of L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris | Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
Time-lapse of the opening day of L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris Video: Courtesy of Centre des monuments nationaux / Perle Productions

The project Wrapped will go down in the annals of time, as yet another avant-garde project by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude that did not fail to receive brickbats and bouquets – the standpoint common to their body of work.

L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris, 1961-2021   | Christo and Jeanne-Claude | STIRworld
L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris, 1961-2021 Image: ©2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

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