Christo’s & Jeanne-Claude’s Arc de Triomphe will enter the collective memory. Once again they show what installation art can be if you let them: Breathtaking, peculiar and glorious.
Christo & Jeanne-Claude: Simply BORING?
As an art historian, Christo had hardly impressed me so far. Quite simple-minded, somewhat boring, and extremely repetitive – that was my impression of her installation art of wrapping well-known monuments.
Très IMPRESSIONNANT: The art of INSTALLATION
My impression of their works, however, had so far been based on slides, as is so often the case at the Vienna Institute for Art History. However, when I climbed the metro stairs of the Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile station a few days ago, my breath was taken away for a moment. Christo’s & Jeanne-Claude’s Arc de Triomphe shone bright-silvery in the Parisian morning sun. Wrapped and packed in countless meters of fabric, fastened by equally countless meters of red rope. And still in sensational processing by some workers on ropes and cranes.
The effect of the AURA
I must say: Rarely have I changed my opinion about a work so quickly. And rarely has the presence of the work – affectionately and humbly also called “aura” by our kind – shifted my point of view from one extreme to the other.
The sight of Christo’s & Jeanne-Claude’s Arc de Triomphe was breathtakingly strange. To see this packaging in those dimensions in close proximity – that was something!
The first draft for L’ARC DE TRIOMPHE, WRAPPED was created as early as 1962 – as a photomontage. At that time, Christo and Jeanne-Claude already knew that they wanted to wrap the Arc de Triomphe. In 1988, another collage was created with the same plan. But it was only during the preparations for a major exhibition planned for 2020 at the Centre Georges Pompidou that the project took on realistic features. In 2019, Emmanuel Macron and the French Centre des Monuments Nationaux granted permission for the monumental project.
A bumpy CAREER
But 2020 has a few surprises in store: On the one hand, the pandemic complicates all projects, and especially those of this magnitude. On the other hand, animal rights activists prevent the project in spring, as it is actually the nesting season of falcons at the Arc de Triomphe. However, even Christo’s death in May cannot prevent his projects: He and his wife have insisted on the continuation of the project by their team – so they are working at full speed to realize it.
Three MONTHS of preparation
On July 15, 2021, the set-up of the project will start on site. The Arc de Triomphe will initially be encased in scaffolding to protect all architectural and sculptural elements. Around the clock (workers* are on duty 3 x 8 hours), within three months, the Arc de Triomphe will be wrapped. 25,000 square meters of silver-blue polypropylene (made in Germany, recyclable) wrap the arch and are fixed by 3000 meters of red rope. ALL was financed by the Estate of Christo V. Javacheff – the realization comes entirely without subsidies from the public sector, which is incredible to say the least and deserves great applause for the certainly horrendous costs.
Make it SIMPLE, but SIGNIFICANT
The idea of Christo’s & Jeanne-Claude’s Arc de Triomphe may be simple – the effect is not. Rarely has installation art been able to unfold such an effect – after all, it is often limited to the rooms of a gallery or museum.