PARIS (AP) – The city of Paris is unveiling a monumental artwork built around a real monument: the Arc de Triomphe draped entirely in silver and blue fabric.
The installation by the late artist duo Christo and Jean-Claude, who conceived the project in 1961, will open on Saturday. The tour will last for about three weeks. Over the weekend, the traffic-heavy roundabout of the Arc de Triomphe will be entirely pedestrian.
Visitors to the famous Napoleonic Arch, which dominates the Champs-lysées avenue, will be able to not only see the glittering fabric, but also to touch it – as the artists intended.
Climbs to the 50 m (164 ft) peak will step on it upon reaching the roof terrace.
At a press conference on the project titled “Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped”, French Culture Minister Roslaine Bachelot called it “a formidable gift to be given to all art lovers, in Paris, the French and beyond”.
Bachelot said it was “a posthumous testimony of artistic genius.”
Bulgarian-born Christo Vladimirov Javchef met Jean-Claude Denat de Guillebon in Paris in 1958, and they later became lovers. The idea for the artwork was born in the early 60s, when he lived in Paris. Jean-Claude died in 2009 and Christo died in May last year. The memorial was supposed to be wrapped up one last time, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed it.
Christo “wanted to complete the project. He promised us that we would do it,” the couple’s nephew, Vladimir Yavachev, told the Associated Press.
Yavachev said the 14 million euro ($16.4 million) project is being financed through the sale of Christo’s preliminary studies, drawings, scale models and other works.
On Thursday, passersby saw in surprise. “It makes me think of a big gray elephant kept in Paris on the Champs-lysée,” said Thomas Thévenaud, 47, who works nearby.
“You really rediscover the beauty of form,” said Agnieszka Vogel, 39, of Paris. “I couldn’t stop taking pictures because it’s extraordinary… we’re so lucky.”
The artists were known for elaborate, temporary creations blanketing familiar public spaces including Berlin’s Reichstag and Paris’ Pont Neuf Bridge, and creating massive site-specific installations such as a series of 7,503 gates in New York City’s Central Park . 24.5 mile “running fence” in California.
Yavachev said he plans to complete another unfinished project: a 150-metre-tall (492 ft) pyramid-like mastaba in Abu Dhabi.
“We have the blueprints, we just have to do it,” he said.
Masha McPherson and Alex Turnbull in Paris contributed