Paris (dpa) – Tall cranes and an impressive steel frame: three teams are currently working around the clock to prepare for the spectacular enveloping of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
There are still a few weeks until the official opening on September 18. But the preparations are already attracting many spectators.
The artist couple Christo (1935-2020) and Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009) – known in Germany mainly for the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin in 1995 – had planned the project in Paris for decades. After Jeanne-Claude’s death, Christo continued on his own, but he no longer attended the directing either. The artist died in New York City on May 31, 2020 at the age of 84.
“Le Triomphe de 1810”, “La Résistance”, “La Paix” and “La Marseillaise or the Exodus of the Volunteers of 1792”: The four pylons of the Arc de Triomphe are decorated with important reliefs. Now they are surrounded by a steel grid structure meant to protect groups of characters. Because the material with which the historic monument must be wrapped must not damage the building, declared Bruno Cordeau, administrator of the Arc de Triomphe, radio “France Inter”.
The 29-meter-high arch should also be protected by a huge metal frame. Because the Arc de Triomphe is one of the most historic buildings in the city. The monument, which was erected between 1806 and 1836 in the middle of the central Parisian square Charles-de-Gaulles – officially called Place de l’Etoile until 1970 – was erected by Emperor Napoleon I after the battle of Austerlitz in 1805 to glorify it Victoires commandées.
With the tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the First World War and the flame under the arch, maintained daily, the Arc de Triomphe is one of the monuments of the French metropolis. Honors and wreaths are regularly deposited there, such as November 11, anniversary of the armistice between France and Germany in 1918.
Many steps are needed to cover the triumphal arch, said Christo’s nephew Vladimir Javacheff of the daily “Le Parisien”. Protecting the building takes most of the time. This is the most important part, Javacheff said. The most spectacular step, concealment, on the other hand, only takes a week.
The project dates back to the early 1960s. Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude started to create temporary works for public spaces at this time. The idea of packing the Arc de Triomphe was born. In 1962/63, Christo made a photomontage of the packaging, a collage followed in 1988, before continuing and developing the project in 2017. In 1985, Christo and Jeanne-Claude had wrapped the Pont Neuf, the oldest Paris bridge.
Vladimir Javacheff has taken over the management of his uncle’s latest project. He does it according to Christo’s wishes. You know all the details exactly, everything was decided during his lifetime, Javacheff told “France Inter” radio. You just have to follow your drafts and sketches. Like all Christo projects, complex works are self-funded. The approximately 14 million euros came from the sale of collages, preliminary drawings, models and lithographs.
The 25,000 square meter synthetic mesh and ropes are expected to be delivered at the end of August. Installation is scheduled for the week before opening. The recyclable blue-silver fabric was produced by a German company in Lübeck. With a polypropylene rope 3000 meters long, also recyclable, it must be secured at the very end.
Before the Corona Crisis, the Arc de Triomphe was one of the most visited monuments in France with around 1.7 million visitors. Throughout the preparation period, the monument, whose terrace offers a magnificent view of the Champs-Elysées and the city, remains open. The work can then be admired in all its splendor from September 18 to October 3.