from september 17 to october 3, sotheby’s paris presents 25 original works by christo telling the story of ‘l’arc de triomphe, wrapped’, a legendary installation 60 years in the making. back in 2017, christo and jeanne-claude were awarded the social impact golden madonnina for the lake iseo installation at THE DESIGN PRIZE, which was initiated that year and curated by designboom with patronage city of milan. their upcoming project in paris will see the popular monument wrapped in 25,000 sqm of recyclable polypropylene fabric in silvery blue, and 3,000 m of red rope.
after the auction of works from christo and jeanne-claude’s personal collection, sotheby’s will now display works in different media that illustrate the history of this project, from early dream to final, posthumous realisation. ‘until his last breath, christo worked tirelessly on this project, his last “temporary exhibition” as he liked to call it,’ simon shaw, vice chairman of the global fine arts division at sotheby’s, tells designboom in an interview. ‘and these original works indeed open a window onto the magical imagination of the late artist, the joy and wonder he found in preparing his most ambitious installation.’christo | arc de triomphe #2 | 2019 | 38 x 244 / 106 x 244 cm (also header image)
all images courtesy of sotheby’s/artdigital studio
said to be the greatest work of public art worldwide in 2021, ‘l’arc de triomphe, wrapped’ will be on view for 16 days this autumn, from september 18 until october 3, 2021. during the installation, sotheby’s paris will show ‘the final christo’, an exhibition of 25 original works, including imagery, juxtaposing maps, architectural plans, photographs and engineering drawings in pastel and paint, drawn in preparation for the wrapping. each work will be available for private sale, with proceeds to benefit both the upcoming project, and the christo & jeanne-claude foundation, established to safeguard the artists’ legacy for future generations.christo | arc de triomphe medium #5 | 2020 | 106 x 165 cm
as well as being a means by which christo could interrogate the subject, and prepare for the installation, the originally works were also created so that through their sale, christo and jean-claude could to maintain this independence and fund their projects. the two systematically refused sponsorship, grants, support, volunteer labor, and all forms of merchandising and monetizing. ‘to keep that absolute freedom we cannot be obliged to anyone’, christo noted. his original works guaranteed this artistic independence and preserved it to the last. this funding model was so pioneering that it was explored in a case study at harvard business school.
designboom spoke with simon shaw, vice chairman of the global fine arts division at sotheby’s, to find out more about the historic exhibition, as well as the monumental ‘l’arc de triomphe, wrapped’. read the interview in full below.christo | arc de triomphe collage #5 | 2019 | 75 x 66 / 77 x 30 cm
designboom (DB): how does the exhibition at sotheby’s paris relate to the opening of the long-awaited ‘l’arc de triomphe, wrapped’?
simon shaw (SS): this historic exhibition of 25 original artworks by christo will tell the story of how the arc de triomphe wrapping came to life, from the dream he had as a young artist to its final realisation six-decades later. until his last breath, christo worked tirelessly on this project his last “temporary exhibition” as he liked to call it. and these original works indeed open a window onto the magical imagination of the late artist, the joy and wonder he found in preparing his most ambitious installation. to me, they are the perfect works to share with the world in this post-covid era, standing as a symbol of the freedom and artistic independence they fought so hard for during their lifetime.
what makes these two projects all the more special is that they fittingly bring christo and jeanne-claude’s story full circle in their beloved paris. christo arrived in the city in 1958 at first living in a french aristocratic family’s maid’s room with a view of the arc de triomphe! paris was also the city where christo met and fell in love with jeanne-claude, his wife and co-creator. there really wouldn’t be any other place so special to hold and celebrate the duos timeless legacy!