Two years after it debuted on the Champs-Élysées, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s final artwork, L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped, is being recycled for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation has partnered with Parley for the Oceans, an environmental organization known for diverting oceanbound plastic, to breathe new life into the artists’ final monumental piece, L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped.
Originally showcased in 2021 on the Champs-Élysées, the iconic L’Arc de Triomphe Wrapped installation comprised more than 25,000 square meters of fabric and 7,000 meters of rope made from polypropylene, a recyclable thermoplastic. The announcement was made two years after the artwork went live.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were a husband-and-wife artist duo renowned for their large-scale, site-specific environmental installations. Born on the same day, June 13, 1935, Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, from Bulgaria, and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, from Morocco, met in Paris in 1958, and their collaboration began almost immediately.
Their art often involved ‘wrapping’ various natural features or man-made structures in fabric or plastic. Among their most famous works are “The Pont Neuf Wrapped,” which involved wrapping the oldest bridge in Paris, and “The Gates,” where they placed 7,503 vinyl “gates” along 23 miles of pathways in New York’s Central Park. These large-scale installations were not only visually captivating but also engaged the audience in new perceptions of familiar landscapes and landmarks.
One unique aspect of their work was its temporary nature. After months or sometimes years of preparation and brief periods of display, their installations were disassembled, leaving the environment in its original state. Both artists were deeply involved in the logistical and bureaucratic elements required to bring their massive projects to fruition, often navigating complex negotiations with local governments and citizens.
Though the materials used were often synthetic, such as nylon or polyethylene, Christo and Jeanne-Claude were conscious about the environmental impact of their work. They made it a point to recycle materials whenever possible and ensured that the sites were restored to their original condition after the installations were taken down.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude insisted that their works be viewed as single artistic entities, despite the physical involvement of various engineers, construction workers, and other collaborators in the projects. According to them, the planning, bureaucratic struggle, execution, and even the removal of the art were all components of the artwork itself.
Now, following their final installation, and with help from Parley for the Oceans, the material used in L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped will be recycled into functional items including tents and sun shades for the forthcoming 2024 Paris Olympics.
“A constant commitment of Christo and Jeanne-Claude was to reuse, upcycle, and recycle all materials used in their projects,” said Vladimir Yavachev, project director of L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped. “We are now going to give L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped a second life with the help of our creative partners. I can think of nothing more fitting than recycling this artwork for future use in Paris, a city so influential on the lives and work of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. It has been an honor to work closely with Mayor Hidalgo and Paris City Hall throughout the lifecycle of this project, including reimagined, practical uses for public events ahead.”
Cyrill Gutsch, founder and CEO of Parley for the Oceans, expressed the significance of repurposing the art into functional items. “The ropes, the fabric of the artwork are testament of the true superpower we humans possess: imagination,” said Gutsch. “We will create tent structures that are designed to protect human life against dangerous heat waves,” he added, emphasizing the dual functionality and symbolic power of the recycled materials.
Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, confirmed that the recycled structures will feature prominently in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games, which the French capital will host in 2024. Parley for the Oceans joins Les Charpentiers de Paris and companies ArcelorMittal and Derichebourg Environnement in giving a second life to different components of the installation, including its wood and steel substructure.
“Two years after the installation of the ephemeral work of art L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, I am delighted that our collaboration with the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation is continuing, giving a second life to the materials used for this extraordinary project,” Hidalgo said. “Thanks to the organization Parley for the Oceans, whom I’d like to thank most warmly, the fabric and ropes will be recycled into shade structures, tents or barnums for our next major events in Paris, in particular the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.” Hidalgo called the effort “a very fine example” of the art world’s ability to adapt to climate challenges.
“I know it for sure, together we can create a new economy where harmful, toxic and exploitative business practices are a relic of the past,” Gutsch said.
Related on Ethos: