L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped

September 27, 2021

It all started in 1961. Christo and Jeanne-Claude began dreaming about temporary works of art in public spaces. Among the buildings, monuments and statues, one stood out: the Arc de Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe Wrapped. Paris. 1961-2021 © Didier Plowy – Centre des monuments nationaux

Who are Christo and Jeanne-Claude?

Christo and Jeanne-Claude were both born on the same day, June13th, 1935. Christo V. Javacheff was born in Bulgaria while Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon was born in Casablanca, Morocco. They met in Paris in 1958 when, as a young artist, he painted portraits of Jeanne-Claude’s family. In 1961, they debuted their first combined projects in Cologne, the Stacked Oil Barrels and Dockside Packages.

Over the next few years, they imagined temporary, large-scale artworks in public spaces. It was around this time that they began to imagine wrapping the Arc de Triomphe as well as the Military School in Paris, where Jeanne-Claude’s father-in-law, General Jacques de Guillebon, worked. The idea stayed in their minds as they realised more and more projects together. By 1994, they decided to officially change their artists’ name from Christo to “Christo and Jeanne-Claude”.

Select Wrapped Works

The use of fabric or textiles was a constant among many of their monumental temporary projects including: 

1985: The Pont Neuf Wrapped, 1971-1985 

1995: Wrapped Reichstag, 1971-1995 

2016: The Floating Piers, 2014-2016 

Only three buildings has been wrapped: The Kunsthalle, Berne, in 1968; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 1969; and the Reichstag, Berlin, in 1995.

The Arc de Triomphe

In 2017, eight years after the death of Jeanne-Claude and fifty-six years after their original idea, Christo took up the project on his own. Finally, he received approval to wrap the Arc de Triomphe. Until the end of his life, he planned out everything – details large and small – working with his teams to achieve the realization. 

The project also gained momentum following an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou featuring their work in Paris, Christo et Jeanne-Claude – Paris ! (July through October 2020). Christo did not live to be present for the opening; he passed away in May, 2020. However, as the Arc de Triomphe was his final wish, it continued thanks in part to the efforts of his nephew, Vladimir Yavachev.

Today through October 3rd, the neoclassical triumphal arch that dates back to 1806 is concealed beneath 25,000 square meters of recyclable polypropylene fabric in silvery blue, and 3,000 meters of red rope of the same fabric. The famous Champs-Elysées roundabout is closed to cars, allowing visitors an up-close experience of the artists’ epic vision.  

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