LE FIGARO.- Your project The Arc de triomphe packaged date of 1962. It is not too late to see it carried out 57 years later?
CHRISTO.- Since my meeting 1958 in Paris with Jeanne-Claude [his wife, muse and partner of all its projects, who disappeared in 2009], we have not ceased to set up projects that met constantly to questions of permission and logistics are deemed impassable. Only 23 of these projects have been carried out. But the 47 remained in the state of ideas. The Packaging of the Arc de triomphe , created in 1962, was in them, like a secret well-hidden from the sight and knowledge of all. This is not an old idea but a nice idea that finally found its context, thanks to the support unofficial but supported the president’s Macron. It is not too late, this is a project that finds its time today, exactly when it needed to be done. During all these years, the project was able to develop its structure so fabulous. There is a news special that we could not imagine twenty years ago!
” READ ALSO – The Arc de triomphe packed, or the return of Christo
The time is it better today?
Christo – The Arc de Triomphe packed (Project for Paris – Place de l’etoile-Charles de Gaulle). Collage 2018 in two parts 12 x 30 1/2″ and 26 1/4 x 30 1/2″ (30.5 x 77.5 cm and 66.7 x 77.5 cm). Pencil, charcoal, crayon, wax, fabric, string, paint, enamel, photograph by Wolfgang Volz, map and tape hand-drawn. Photo: André Grossmann © 2018 Christo Photo: André Grossmann © 2018 Christo
This is not a question of technique. Our projects are simple. It is always a place, a building that we are ready. The project is the result of a fight extraordinary that transforms into a work of art I got [its Bulgaria hometown that he has run off, passing through Vienna in Austria] in 1958 in Paris that I didn’t know. I hardly spoke French. I lived so close to the Arc de triomphe. I didn’t have much in the head, I was doing portraits of a French nobleman who worked for the refugee Committee in Geneva. His grand-father had an apartment there. And so I inherited the room of good, without water, in this beautiful neighborhood. Arriving at 8, rue Quentin-Bauchart, that is what I saw? To my great amazement, all the Champs Elysees were full of tanks and representatives of the French Army! It was in the context of the Algerian war, shortly before the coup d’etat of may 13, led to Algiers and the recall to power of general de Gaulle. I was afraid, I thought: “this is the war again!”
How were you doing the Arc de triomphe if French?
It is a monument, not a building. It is a separate structure, nestled at the summit of the Chaillot hill. Therefore, it is an extraordinary monument on an extraordinary site that emphasizes the cutting of the avenues in a star. It is the work of art in itself. I was fascinated by its view. So I made a montage of The Arc de triomphe packaged in 1962, and then I multiplied the preparatory studies and collages. I was well aware that the life of this monument was controlled, there was number of important ceremonies for the nation. Even if, in our thoughts of Jeanne-Claude and to me, it was impossible to imagine negotiating anything for this project to be born.
Impossible because you were a Bulgarian refugee stateless?
Yes, and I have been for 17 years. It was impossible for me to ask for any thing, even more if it were symbolic and bold. It is all a question of context. All of our projects have become realistic when they are made. If we had packaged the Reichstag during the cold War, its impact would have been lesser. We have carried out from 23 June to 7 July 1995, when the two germanys were reunited. The image of the Reichstag was completely different.
You find the context best in France, while the yellow Vests will mobilize to their 21st Saturday in a row, with the blunders and the violence that we know, especially on the Champs-Élysées?
things happen when they must happen. I never imagined to have an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou on “The years in paris of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s” between 1958 and 1964 [from march 18 to June 15, 2020, commissioner Sophie Duplaix]. I was very happy to review my old works. We left the Pompidou Centre, there is about a year, and Bernard Blistène [director of the national Museum of modern art] and asked me what I’d like to do. I said, laughing: the only thing I can do is wrap up the Arc de triomphe! He knew, scholar, my studies and my boards. “There’s a chance of being able to negotiate permission”, me-t-he answered. Serge Lasvignes, the president of the Centre Pompidou, is very much committed to this project. Incredible. I don’t know if the Parisians have loved The Pont-Neuf packaged in 1985. As it was necessary to be able to pass on this bridge on foot or by car, it was a hell of a logistics which involved a great complexity of permissions, from institutional sources are very diverse. This first, successful in terms of operation, has opened the way to negotiations.
“If I was scared, I would never have done anything. My whole life is like that, committed. I chose to put art in the street, it is a great challenge. But when, finally, it all finally converge, it’s amazing”
In the case, who decides? Who has given you the green light to The Arc de triomphe packaged ?
The first decision-making authority is the Centre for national monuments and, therefore, its director, Philippe Bélaval. But the great support was the one of Claudia Ferrazzi, advisor on culture of the president Macron. She was the grand champion of the project, she is the one who makes things happen. The city of Paris is involved, of course, but without any comparison with the project of Pont-Neuf. I have not met with the president of Macron. Not yet!
You have no fear of the reactions of the French, especially in anger?
If I was scared, I would never have done anything. My whole life is like that, committed. I chose to put art in the street, it is a great challenge. But when, finally, all will converge, it is extraordinary. Our projects Jeanne-Claude and I are not made for the comfort of a gallery. No films, no images to look at in a clean, warm, and smooth. They are made for real life things, the movements of the people, the cars, the rain, the wind. I can see the reality that live the French, I am aware of all of this. But, in all our projects, we have faced problems, risk, sometimes a lot more dangerous than in Paris, particularly for The wrapped Reichstag in 1995, or for Running Fence in 1976 in California. I will not give details, a matter of conscience. Find solutions excites me and pushes me forward. The fundamental thing, that is beauty, the true life. Beauty is irrational, it has such power that it disarms much of the fury. It is for this reason that I love this project of The Arc de triomphe packaged . Climb what seems impossible, and that, after, disappears for ever.
Christo – The Arc de Triomphe packed (Project for Paris – Place de l’etoile-Charles de Gaulle). Drawing 2019 in two parts 15×96″ and 42 x 96″ (38 x 244 cm and 106.6 x 244 cm). Pencil, charcoal, pastel, pencil, wax, paint, enamel, study architectural and topographical map hand-drawn on vellum and adhesive tape. Photo: André Grossmann © 2019 Christo
What do you think of the anamorphosis so ephemeral that JR has created to celebrate 30 years of the Louvre Pyramid? Very few people have seen it and it was reduced to shreds after only a few hours…
I’ve heard of that, but I have not seen it. I don’t want to comment on the choice of another artist. I love all the artists in the world! Our projects are different, are not the result of artistic performances. Our buildings are not designed by amateurs or volunteers, but by engineers, people who build skyscrapers, suspension bridges, construction professionals are very expensive, which are bound to result.
“ensure that there will be no problems, that all things have been done well, it is the very condition of my mission. It is just absolutely necessary”
You do temporary work, but could it last?
I don’t like the word “ephemeral”. I would rather say “temporary”. The technical elements are drawn as to remain for ever. In the history of the architecture, there are a lot of temporary architecture, built for a time or a given event, as in the universal Exhibitions. Our projects are woven into the very space that people use. Where our great sense of responsibility.
do You consider yourself as a perfectionist or a “control freak”, you are in complete control of everything before, during, after?
No, I am an artist, this is a different definition. I’m not a “control freak” (laughs). Ensure that there will be no problems, that all things have been done well, it is the very condition of my mission. It is just absolutely necessary. This space that we are ready, we should meet, define its purpose, to do everything which is indispensable for this.
Pack the Arc de triomphe, is more complicated than the other projects?
The difficulty is to organize the assembly, taking into account the function of the building, not hinder it. This is a question that we ask ourselves for every project, in circumstances that are always different. Here, at the Arc de triomphe, there was the ceremony of the Flame of the tomb of the unknown Soldier, each day. Just need to find the right method that meets this. Another example, we can’t stop the visit of the roof. Therefore, the mounting of the roof will be the night. The assembly as a whole, as for the new Bridge, expected to take ten days. There will be no nasty machines around the Arc de triomphe. This will be a ballet of dozens and dozens of climbers! Everyone will watch it, this will be a live performance very very beautiful, this will be a part of the work.
You will finance you-even on this project, which will cost nothing to the Parisians, nor to other taxpayers. Has how do you feel?
It will cost what it cost (laughter). In general, my projects are funded by years and years of preparatory drawings, photomontages and collages that I sell to collectors. The Arc de triomphe, and slept long and woke up, a year ago. Since then, I draw, I do this work that is both artistic and documentary on the project in paris, precisely to fund it. But the time is much shorter, and these drawings are therefore much more rare. In terms capitalists, this means they are so much more expensive!