In 2005, I happened to be in New York City when The Gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude was on display. It was February, very cold, and as I walked through Central Park, snow on the ground and the bright orange curtains swaying gently in the wind, I remember thinking to myself that I had to remember this moment because it would never happen again. It was a once in a lifetime event. This was my introduction to Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and I came out of the experience very much a fan. So much so that I was eager to experience more of their work. Unfortunately, given the scale of their projects, these types of art installations are produced very infrequently. Meaning I had to wait 16 years to experience another one of their works in person. But Arc de Triomphe Wrapped was more than worth the wait.
A Project 60 Years in the Making
I first previewed this project back in March 2020 when I talked about the Christo and Jeanne-Claude exhibition that was due to open at the Pompidou Centre that spring. The exhibition was supposed to serve as both a retrospective of their previous Paris project, the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in 1985, as well as a preview of Arc de Triomphe Wrapped, which at the time was scheduled for the fall of 2020. Of course, both the exhibition and installation were delayed because of the pandemic, but I did eventually see the Pompidou exhibition last fall. The actual wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe, however, was delayed until 2021.
It was just the latest in a series of setbacks that have plagued this project for decades. Christo and Jeanne-Claude first conceived it back in 1962 when they began creating sketches of what this project would entail. Meaning it has taken nearly 60 years for this project to become a reality. Sadly, this also means that it has outlived both of its creators. Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009, and Christo passed away in May 2020. It was his wish that Arc de Triomphe Wrapped continue after his death, and on September 18th, 2021, that wish finally became a reality.
Of course, that was just the official opening date. However, work has been going on at the Arc de Triomphe for weeks now. Altogether, 25,000 square metres of recyclable fabric has been wrapped around the monument, held together by 3,000 metres of red rope. The colours; red, white, and blue, symbolize the tricolours of the French flag. Incredibly, this project was entirely self-financed by Christo through the sale of his older works. No public funds, donations, or sponsorships were used to bring it to life.
A Once in a Lifetime Experience
Naturally, I booked my ticket to see Arc de Triomphe Wrapped as soon as I could. Thanks to my Passion Monuments card, my visit was complimentary, but I would have happily paid for the experience. I know that many a debate has been raged as to whether or not this project is “art”, but in my opinion, that’s beside the point. Art or not, the project itself is beautiful.
It was also another once in a lifetime event. And as I stood at the base of the Arc and fully took in the enormity of the project, I was brought back to that moment another lifetime ago in Central Park. When I stood in the shadow of something special and allowed the scale of it to sink in. And just as I did 16 years ago, I thought to myself, “Never forget this. Because this will never happen again.” I have yet to forget The Gates, so I’m confidant that I will not forget Arc de Triomphe Wrapped any time soon.
Arc de Triomphe Wrapped is currently running until October 3rd. If you are in Paris this week, I highly recommend you take the time to visit this once in a lifetime installation. Tickets to go up to the top of the monument can be purchased HERE, but entry to the space beneath it is free.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.