Visitors to Paris were surprised on Sunday when strolling up the Champs-Elysees as dozens of workers began wrapping the Arc de Triomphe in shimmering plastic, as a dream by the late artist Christo was realised.
Workers were moving around the 50-metre tall, 19th-century arch, setting up 25,000 square metres of silvery blue, recyclable plastic wrapping, which will be on view between this Saturday and October 3.
Imagined decades ago in 1961 by the late Bulgarian-born artist Christo and his wife and fellow artist Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped was finally brought to life by his nephew Vladimir Yavachev at a cost of about €14 million ($16.5m).
“The biggest challenge for me is that Christo is not here,” Yavatchev told Reuters. “I miss his enthusiasm, his criticisms, his energy and all of these things. That, for me, really is the biggest challenge.”
Christo, who spent part of his life in Paris and in New York, once rented a small room near the Champs-Elysees after moving to the French capital in 1958.
There, he experimented with wrapping discarded crates and barrels with fabric and rope, according to an official site about the artist.
Christo, whose full name was Christo Javacheff, was known for his larger-than-life installations.
He wrapped a stretch of coastline in Australia and the Reichstag parliament building in Berlin, and strung up a huge curtain in part of a canyon in Colorado. He worked closely with Jeanne-Claude on the projects.
The pair covered the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris with yellow cloth in 1985.
The Arc de Triomphe project, involving the most visited monument in Paris, which looms over one end of the Champs-Elysees, will still allow tourists to visit the site and its panoramic terrace.
The monument is also home to a tribute to the Unknown Soldier, in the form of a flame of remembrance that is lit every day.