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The artist who wraps the world just because he can6 min read

September 27, 2021 5 min read

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The artist who wraps the world just because he can6 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Meet Christo, the world’s first wrapping artist. That’s right. He wraps things; Huge, monumental things. And recently, he wiggled his way back in the news for draping France’s most iconic monument, the (you’ll have to unjumble this puzzle to find out) in shiny silver cloth.

Yup! Christo has wrapped the Arc De Triomphe, and for 16 days, it’s going to stay that way. Why and how would someone do that? Let’s find out. 

The Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe - Tips by travel authority Howard Hillman

The iconic arch is 164 feet (50 metres) high and 148 feet (45 metres) wide, and it took a whopping 30 years to build.

Christo

Christo, artist known for massive, fleeting displays, dies | PBS NewsHour
Christo passed away in 2020. Image: PBS

So, back to Christo. Christo was an “artist” who created spectacular public installations all over the world. That’s right, Christo passed away last year. So, if you were busy scratching your head, wondering how the man managed to pull off wrapping an entire monument, you must be stumped. How on Earth is he draping a massive arch when he isn’t even around anymore? 

Jeanne-Claude, Artist and Wife of Christo, Dies at 74 of Brain Aneurysm -  Jeanne-Claude - Zimbio
Christo and Jean Claude. Image: Zimbio

Well, Christo had been planning this project for almost 60 years. ‘L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped,’ was first imagined by Christo and his wife Jeanne Claude, in 1962. However, their project never came to life during either of their lifetimes. His wife, artistic partner, and assistant, Jeanne Claude, also passed away in 2009. Nonetheless, Christo’s dream had been drawn to perfection. He had already imagined and drawn out his project with so much detail that his own death couldn’t stop the creation of this spectacle. 

Christo’s latest project, ‘L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped’, was taken over by his two nephews and his studio manager. All they had to do was follow his meticulous drawings and hire workers who would go ahead and wrap the ginormous monument. 

A Final Interview with Christo | 2021-09-12 | Architectural Record
Christo and his drawing that depicts a wrapped Arc de Triomphe

“All the design was done,” said one of his nephews. “Every rope, every fold, every pleat, is exactly, exactly and precisely the way Christo designed it. It will be his baby. We’re just finishing it for him.”

The finished work

Reshuffle these boxes for a better look at what the famous Arch looked like once it was all wrapped up. 

The monument is wrapped in a silver-blue shiny, plasticky, recyclable fabric tied in place with red rope. Along with the blue skies of Paris, the silver cloth and red rope represent the French flag. 

L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped: Christo's dream being realised | Christo | The  Guardian
Christo’s drawing of the Arc de Triomphe project along with the flag of France. Image: The Guardian

This massive monument needed 25,000 square cloth along with 3,000 meters of red rope to be completely covered. As you’ve probably already surmised, that’s a lot of material. 

The wrapping around the Arc de Triomphe will remain in place for 16 days, officially running from Sept. 18 to Oct. 3.

At this point, you’re probably riddled with questions. How do you pay for something so grand? Why wrap up a beautiful monument at all? Is this really art at all?

How do you pay for something so grand?

Alright then, let’s get on with it. Christo paid millions of dollars for this project all by himself. And what’s more, is that he made sure that he paid a minimum amount of what was set by groups of workers themselves. Even though Christo needed the French government’s approval for his project (not anyone can wrap a monument), Christo didn’t need their money. In fact, it was very important to Christo that he paid for all of his projects himself so that no one could dictate his creativity.

Christo felt that the moment he allowed someone else to fund his project, he would also be handing them creative control. He wanted to be the only one who could decide how his project should look or be viewed. The idea of freedom is something that drove Christo and his art for most of his life. He sold the intricate drawings of his plans to wrap up famous buildings to collect money for his projects.

When Christo first started out as a young man, he would paint life-like portraits of women for money.

Christo claimed that his love of freedom came from Bulgaria, a communist country where the government had complete control over the population. In fact, an artist in Bulgaria couldn’t even own their own work.

“I use my own money and my own work and my own plans because I like to be totally free.”

All of Christo’s spectacular installations are free to view.

Even you can view the Arc de Triomphe from thousands of kilometres. Just log on to this live footage, and look at the Arc de Triomphe wrapped in all its shimmering glory.

Why wrap up a beautiful monument at all?

That’s a great question, and one to which Christo didn’t have the answer either. He did it simply because he wanted to, and people wanted to see what he had done. In an interview, Christo once said that even he and his wife did not know what the projects were once they were done. For Christo, his work is always open to interpretation, and no matter what you interpret it to be, in Christo’s eyes, you can’t be wrong.

Is any of this really art at all?

Well, that’s up to you. Critics from across the world aren’t certain either. But either way, it makes you think, and some would say, what is art if not something that makes you think.

 

With Excerpts From: CNN, CBS News, The New York Times, The New York Times, The New York Times, Dezeen, Dezeen, Dezeen, Dezeen, BBC, Britannica, Galerie News, and NPR.

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