The artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, known for creating spectacular monumental artworks in public spaces, first imagined wrapping the Arc de Triomphe while living in Paris in 1962. Nearly 60 years later, their vision has come to fruition, posthumously. For 16 days, the Arc de Triomphe will remain wrapped — perhaps dressed is a better word, for it looks as though it were wearing a beautifully-made gown — for all to see, touch, interact with, for free.
This time-lapse shows the unfurling of the fabric wrapping, physical preparations for which took about three months. Planning took years and millions of dollars.
After numerous applications for permission to transform the war monument, Christo finally received permission in 2020 while he was in quarantine from the pandemic in his New York City studio. (His wife Jeanne-Claude died in 2009). This short video, made a few months before he died, gives a quick, illuminating view of his life working with Jeanne-Claude and insight into the meaning their work.
All our projects deal with reality. You are exposed to real things: real sun, wind, rain, fear, joy. That is why these projects are bigger than our own imaginations.
lt will be gone and it will never be there again. That is the magnetic force of our projects. They are not something that stays. And that urgency to be seen, to be there…You cannot own it, you cannot buy it. It’s free.
Jeanne-Claude described the essential feeling that their art evokes:
“…the quality of love and tenderness that we human beings have for what does not last.”
What is most striking is the vision Christo and Jeanne-Claude shared and dedicated their lives to. Each project took years — often decades — of highly detailed organizing, fund raising, setbacks, faith. After a life of bringing to fruition their breathtakingly ambitious — and ephemeral — vision, against all rational odds, Christo described himself this way:
I am an artist who is totally irrational, irresponsible, completely free.
Crazy, like a fox. Those who have experienced his and Jeanne-Claude’s work find them etched in memory and heart.
Here’s a live-streamed view via the artists’ website in view until Sunday, October 3, 2021. It is lovely to see how the light transforms it at different times of day and night.