Paris (AFP)

Several hundred square meters of recyclable fabric in bluish silver polypropylene, intended to undulate with the elements, were unrolled on Sunday on one of the sides of the Arc de Triomphe, an operation launching the home stretch of the monument's packaging Parisian.

From September 18 to October 3, the childhood dream of Christo (died in May 2020) and his wife Jeanne-Claude, will be realized: a major place of French commemorations, the Arc de Triomphe, 50 m high, will be fully transformed into a gigantic gift package, held together by 3,000 m of red rope.

In 1985, Christo had already packed the Pont-Neuf in Paris, spanning the Seine.

After weeks of preparations, a team of 95 rope access technicians set off on Sunday morning from the top of the Arc de Triomphe to deploy, on the avenue de Wagram side, a first roll of fabric.

The packaging (25,000 m2 of fabric) will continue day and night to be ready on September 18, the day of the inauguration.

“Today is one of the most spectacular moments in the installation. The wrapped Arc de Triomphe begins to come to life and comes even closer to the vision of what was Christo's lifelong dream. and Jeanne-Claude ", confided Vladimir Yavachev, nephew of the artist who supervises the project.

Beginning of the packaging of the Arc de Triomphe, posthumous work of Christo, September 12, 2021 in Paris Lucas BARIOULET AFP

"On the morning of September 18, once we have finished arranging the ropes and making the final touches, the protective grids of the current site will be removed to allow the public to come, see and touch the boat free of charge. work of art ".

The packaging of the Arc de Triomphe "will be like a living object which will come alive in the wind and reflect the light. The folds will move, the surface of the monument will become sensual", explained Christo while presenting his final project, two years before his death.

As early as 1962, Christo and Jeanne-Claude had signed a photomontage with the Arc de Triomphe packaged, an idea that arose while looking at the monument from their first Parisian apartment, avenue Foch.

At a cost of 14 million euros, the project is entirely self-financed, without public subsidy, thanks to the sale of original works by Christo, preparatory drawings, souvenirs, models and lithographs.

On Saturday, in the daily Le Monde, the architect Carlo Ratti, one of Christo's friends, however called, in a forum, to abandon "the aesthetics of high-waste packaging".

Beginning of the packaging of the Arc de Triomphe, posthumous work of Christo, September 12, 2021 in Paris Lucas BARIOULET AFP

"I suggest that we stop wrapping the Arc de Triomphe, both for environmental and intellectual reasons. On the environmental level, can we afford to waste 25,000 m2 of fabric wrapping a monument? “The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions,” writes Carlo Ratti.

Asked by AFP, Christo's nephew did not wish to react.

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