It’s a wrap: Paris’ Arc de Triomphe is swathed in fabric in Christo-designed art project

People looking at Paris' Arc de Triomphe swathed in fabric
Bystanders gaze at Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, which has been swathed in blue and silver fabric as part of an art project by the late artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
(Lewis Joly / Associated Press)

The city of Paris is unveiling a monumental artwork built around an actual monument: the Arc de Triomphe completely wrapped in silver and blue fabric.

The installation by late artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who conceived the project in 1961, will open Saturday. Visits will take place for almost three weeks. On weekends, the Arc de Triomphe’s traffic-heavy roundabout will be entirely pedestrianized.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude were known for elaborate, temporary creations that involved blanketing familiar public places with fabric, including Berlin’s Reichstag and Paris’ Pont Neuf bridge, and creating giant site-specific installations, such as the parade of 1,760 giant yellow umbrellas in the Tejon Pass, north of Los Angeles, in 1991.


Visitors to the famous Arc de Triomphe, a Napoleonic arch that dominates the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue, will not only be able to see the gleaming fabric but to touch it, too, which the artists intended.

Those climbing the 164 feet to the top will step on the fabric when they reach the roof terrace.

French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot called the project — titled “Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped” — “a formidable gift offered to Parisians, the French and beyond, to all art lovers.”

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Bachelot added that it was “a posthumous testimony of artistic genius.”

Bulgarian-born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff met Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon in Paris in 1958, and they later became lovers. The idea for the artwork was born in the early ‘60s, when they lived in Paris. Jeanne-Claude died in 2009 and Christo in May of last year. The Arc de Triomphe was to be wrapped last fall, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed it.

Christo “wanted to complete this project. He made us promise him that we will do it,” the couple’s nephew, Vladimir Yavachev, told the Associated Press.

The $16.4-million project is being financed through the sale of Christo’s preparatory studies, drawings, scale models and other pieces of work, Yavachev said.


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Passersby on Thursday looked up in awe.

“It makes me think of a big gray elephant placed in Paris on the Champs-Elysees,” said Thomas Thevenoud, 47, who works nearby.

“You really rediscover the beauty of the form,” said 39-year-old Parisian Agnieszka Wojel. “I couldn’t stop taking pictures because it’s extraordinary. ... We are very lucky.”

Yavachev said he plans to complete another one of their unfinished projects: a 492-foot-tall pyramid-like mastaba in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.

“We have the blueprints,” he said. “We just have to do it.”