Sotheby’s and Bonhams Events Mark Opening of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped

Liz Catalano
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Christo with a preparatory drawing for L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped in 2019. Image by Wolfgang Volz. © 2019 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation.
Christo with a preparatory drawing for L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped in 2019. Image by Wolfgang Volz. © 2019 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation.

L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped started as a simple question in 1962: what would the Arc de Triomphe look like if it was completely covered in fabric? Bulgarian artist Christo gazed out the window of his small Parisian room and contemplated this possibility in the early days of his career. The Arc de Triomphe idea idled for decades as Christo and his partner, Jeanne-Claude, explored other public projects.

L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped will finally become a reality 60 years after its conception. It will be the first major Christo and Jeanne-Claude project completed since Christo’s death in 2020. This temporary wrapping will be on view from September 18th through October 3rd, 2021. In the meantime, both Sotheby’s and Bonhams will present auctions celebrating Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s highly anticipated achievement.

Workers install fabric panels along the inside walls of the Arc de Triomphe. Image by Wolfgang Volz. © 2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation.
Workers install fabric panels along the inside walls of the Arc de Triomphe. Image by Wolfgang Volz. © 2021 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation.

L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped 

Together, Christo and Jeanne-Claude built a legacy of grand environmental installations made of fabric. L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped is the most recent project involving recognizable public landmarks (others have included the Reichstag building in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris). For the newest installation, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s team will drape the Arc de Triomphe in 25,000 square meters of recyclable silver fabric and 3,000 meters of red rope. Like Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s other projects, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped is funded exclusively through the sale of preparatory drawings, models, and lithographs.

Plans for L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped started to materialize in 2017, eight years after Jeanne-Claude’s death. It required approval from the City of Paris, the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, and the President of France before it could begin. Concern for the monument’s delicate architectural details, as well as the nesting of kestrel falcons, caused delays through 2019 and early 2020. Christo further postponed the project after the COVID-19 pandemic swept Europe. Construction finally began in the summer of 2021. The completed project will be free and open to the public throughout its installation. Meanwhile, the Eternal Flame by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will continue to burn without interference.

Christo, Arc de Triomphe #2, 2019. Image from Sotheby’s.
Christo, Arc de Triomphe #2, 2019. Image from Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s Offers Preparatory Sketches For Arc de Triomphe Project

Sotheby’s will present a selling exhibition of 25 works related to L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped throughout the installation’s run in Paris. Proceeds will fund the project and benefit the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation. The available preparatory materials extend across mediums, from color sketches to maps and photographs. Prices range from USD 150,000 to $2.5 million. 

“While the nature of these installations was always to be temporary, lasting only a matter of days, they live forever in two places: in the collective imagination and in Christo’s breath-taking original works,” said Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s vice-chairman, in a statement about the upcoming event.

“The Final Christo” exhibition at Sotheby’s marks the second partnership between the auction house and Christo’s estate. Sotheby’s offered a two-part auction of Christo and Jeanne-Claude items in February of 2021. The sales achieved a combined EUR 9.3 million (USD 11 million). Part of the proceeds helped fund L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped.

Christo & Jeanne-Claude, The Pont Neuf Wrapped, 1985. Image from Bonhams.
Christo & Jeanne-Claude, The Pont Neuf Wrapped, 1985. Image from Bonhams.

Bonhams Reflects on Christo & Jeanne-Claude’s Past Works

At the end of September, Bonhams will present a separate selection of Christo and Jeanne-Claude items. The upcoming auction offers sculptures, sketches, and photographs relating to the artists’ past projects. Items associated with both completed and abandoned projects are available. Among the leading lots is a preparatory color screenprint for the unrealized Ponte Sant’Angelo, Wrapped installation in Rome, the first bridge that Christo and Jeanne-Claude attempted to cover (USD 8,000 – $10,000). Collectors will also find smaller wrapped objects, including books, faux roses, and magazines. 

The completion of L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped posthumously fulfills a long-held dream for Christo and Jeanne-Claude. In one of the final interviews Christo gave before his death in 2020, the artist spoke of his excitement for the installation. Christo preferred not to rank his completed projects, telling Nicholas Glass of The Art Newspaper that L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped is just another link in “a connecting chain of things in my life of 85 years.” Though Christo and Jeanne-Claude did not live to see this project come to fruition, it honors their enduring legacy and final wishes. 

Sotheby’s selling exhibition of original works for L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped will run from September 17th through October 3rd, 2021. Bonhams’ Wrap It Up live auction will begin at 2:00 PM EDT on September 30th, 2021.

Before visiting Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped installation, check out Auction Daily’s profile of Christo.

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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