Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Arc de Triomphe: game of wind and light
I knew we had to visit Paris and see L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped by Christo and Jeanne-Claude when I first heard about the art project in 2019.
Financed entirely with the artists’ personal funds, the 60-year-old dream finally comes true in September and lasts 16 days. It’s wrapped in 25, 000 square meters of recyclable polypropylene fabric.
Dressed up in silver, during these two weeks the Arc de Triomphe sparks controversy. The online opinions of the masses are powerful: a garbage bag, a piece of sheet, useless, ugly, schizophrenic, meaningless, damaging to the environment, only snobs like it… But also ingenious, exciting, beautiful, and one of a kind. Christo himself has shared that the couple’s art is unnecessary, there is no hidden meaning behind it. The only moving force is passion and eagerness to execute each project exactly the way the artists imagined it.
From a distance, the wrapped Arc de Triomphe looks covered in shimmering silk. When cloudy, the monument resembles linen canvas. A closer look reveals a heavy silver fabric with a blue hue, secured with a red rope. It reminds me of the French flag and later I find out that this was the artists’ idea.
Access to the arc’s base is free and one must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination. People kiss, take selfies, babies crawl around barefoot, a man with a huge camera lens takes close-up shots of the breathing fabric and smiles with satisfaction. Cultural guides give information and pieces of the fabric. The sunlight plays with the textile, changes its color, and blinds. Airflows bring the Arc de Triomphe to life: it moves, breaths, and sighs. We love it! (yes, we are snobs).
En route to the top, we learn more about the monument’s history and 284 steps later enjoy panoramic views of Paris. No doubt, the busiest photo spot includes the Eiffel Tower.
At night the wrapped Arc de Triomphe is beautiful in a glamorous and sophisticated way. A line to take photos and selfies spoils the mood, we throw a final glance and rush to see the sparkling Eiffel Tower before the drizzle turns to pouring rain.