Paris (AFP)

The packaging of the Arc de Triomphe by the artist Christo, who died in May 2020, "is a tremendous gift to Parisians and French people," Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said on Thursday.

"The packed Arc de Triomphe is a wonderful present to Parisians, to the French and beyond, to all art lovers", she said during the press conference presenting the work, already visible from the outside but can be visited from Saturday.

This posthumous work by Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude will be formally inaugurated by the Head of State Emmanuel Macron at 5:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. GMT).

The packaging of this high place of French commemorations required 25,000 m2 of bluish silver recycled fabric, held together by 3,000 meters of red rope.

"Christo always said that the most difficult was to obtain administrative authorizations", recalled Vladimir Yavachev, nephew of the artist who supervises the project.

For the Arc de Triomphe, authorizations have arrived fairly quickly since 2017, when the project was imagined.

Also present, the mayor of Paris and declared presidential candidate, Anne Hidalgo, acknowledged that the artist's previous experience with the city of Paris - that of Pont-Neuf in 1985 - had been a decisive element in the choice of packaging the Arc de Triomphe.

“When he packed the Pont-Neuf, for me, it was a way of seeing it as an awakening of Paris,” she said, praising an artist “who upset contemporary art”.

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 ...

Christo caressed this project for decades: "It 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. People will want to touch the Arc de Triumph, "he said.

The monument and its terrace will remain accessible to the public throughout the duration of the project.

And the flame of the Unknown Soldier will continue to burn.

© 2021 AFP