"A big gray elephant": Paris' Arc de Triomphe has been wrapped

Paris unveils a monumental art installation built around a monument: The Arc de Triomphe, completely covered in blue and silver fabric.

"A big gray elephant": Paris' Arc de Triomphe has been wrapped

On Saturday, the installation of Christo and Jeanne-Claude will be open. They created it in 1961. Visitors will be able to visit the installation for nearly three weeks. The traffic-heavy Arc de Triomphe roundabout will be completely pedestrianized on weekends.

The famous Napoleonic arch dominates Champs-Elysees Avenue. Visitors will be able not only to see but also to touch the fabric -- just as the artists intended.

When they reach the roof terrace, those who climb the 50m (164 feet) will step on it.

Roselyne Bachelot, France's Culture Minister, described the project as "Arc de Triomphe Wrapped" and called it "a formidable present offered to Parisians, France, and beyond to all art lovers."

Bachelot said that it was "a posthumous testament of artistic genius."

Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, a Bulgarian-born man, met Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon at Paris in 1958. They became friends later. In the early 1960s, while they were living in Paris, the idea for the artwork was born. Jeanne-Claude and Christo both died in 2009 respectively. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the monument from being wrapped last fall.

Christo "wanted this project to be completed." Vladimir Yavachev's nephew told The Associated Press that Christo made them promise to finish the project.

Yavachev stated that the 14 million-euro project ($16.4 million), is being funded through the sale Christo's preparatory works, drawings, scale models and other work.

On Thursday, passersby looked up in amazement. Thomas Thevenoud (47), who lives nearby, said that it made him think of a large gray elephant placed in Paris on Champs-Elysee.

Agnieszka Wojel, 39 years old, said that "you really rediscover beauty in the form." "I could not stop taking photos because it was extraordinary... We are very fortunate."

They were well-known for creating elaborate temporary works that included covering familiar public spaces with fabric, including Berlin’s Reichstag and Paris’ Pont Neuf bridges, as well as giant, site-specific installations such as the 7,503 gates in New York City's Central Park or the 24.5-mile "Running Fence", in California.

Yavachev stated that he intends to finish another of their unfinished projects, a 150-meter tall (492 feet), pyramid-like mastaba in Abu Dhabi.

He said, "We have all the blueprints. We just need to execute it."

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