Despite France’s galleries and small museums getting permission to reopen starting May 11th, one of the country’s most hotly anticipated public art projects has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Christo’s long-awaited wrapping of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe in fabric has been pushed back to 2021. The project, which will involve the artist covering the iconic arch in 269,097 square feet of multicolored fabric, was scheduled to go on view in September of this year. It will instead run from September 18 to October 3, 2021.
The long-gestating project was conceived by Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon in 1962. The pair are known for their fabric wraps of monumental manmade structures as well as landscapes, including Paris’s Pont Neuf, Berlin’s Reichstag, and the waters surrounding islands in Biscayne Bay, Miami. The Arc de Triomphe wrapping was originally set to open in April to coincide with an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou focused on Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work (the exhibition has been postponed). The April opening was delayed due to concerns about the fabric’s impact on the kestrels that roost at the Arc, as well as early fears about the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Christo exhibition and public intervention have been delayed, the European art world is beginning to cautiously reopen in some places. German galleries opened their doors last week, and museums Italy and Belgium will begin admitting visitors in mid-May. The reopenings are accompanied by strict new health and safety measures, including social distancing enforcement and rigorous cleaning schedules.