The posthumous project by the late artistic couple Christo and Jeanne Claude finally came to fruition on Saturday. The project was to wrap the Arc de Triomphe, the iconic Paris monument, with silvery fabric. How could the late artists’ dream be realized even after their death? And why the Arc de Triomphe of all the architecture?
In 1806, Napoleon I commissioned a triumphal monument at the center of Paris after his great victory at the Battle of Austerlitz to celebrate the French Revolution and honor fallen soldiers from Napoleonic Wars. Beneath the vault lies the tomb of the unknown soldiers from World War I, where a swastika flag was once hung during the Nazi occupation.
It was 1961 when Christo and Jeanne Claude first conceived of the plan to wrap up the entire monument, which went through a history of both glory and shame, three years after Christo escaped the Communist Bulgaria and came to Paris. Met in Paris, the artist duo garnered international fame by wrapping up historic and symbolic architecture such as the German Reichstag and the French Pont-Neuf bridge. The wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe, a long-cherished ambition of the couple, almost fell through when Jen Claude died in 2009, followed by Christo’s death in 2020. The project managed to carry on thanks to Christo’s nephew, Vladmir Yavachev. As with most of their projects, 14 million euros spent for the project was self-financed through the sale of Christo’s drawings and works. The installation is scheduled for 16 days, after which steel bracing and ropes will be recycled.
After the project was revealed, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “This is the achievement of a 60-year-old dream, a crazy dream come true.” Some might have sneered at an immigrant artist’s plan to wrap up the Arc de Triomphe and even belittled it as a mad dream. Yet, the artist couple sought the dream for their entire life and eventually realized their dream. Parisians observe in awe this “crazy” dream having come true. After all, a dream can only be fulfilled when one is completely infatuated with it.