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Arc de Triomphe

How can the covering of monuments be art?

Thomas Coex/Getty Images

The Arc de Triomphe has been wrapped in fabric as a tribute to the late artists Christo (1935-2020) and Jeanne-Claude (1935-2009), who imagined doing just that in 1961. “It’s public indecency,” says Mikaël Faujour in Marianne. And it’s definitely not art. Certainly the piece doesn’t add anything to the world or produce symbolic value. Beyond an ugly list of figures reeled off by the fawning media – 25,000 square metres of fabric held in place by 3,000 metres of red rope at a cost of €14m – what is there actually to say about it?

And what is the city of Paris playing at letting it happen? The Arc de Triomphe really means something to most of us. Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 as a tribute to France’s Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, it has come to represent our strength as a nation. Since 1921, it has been the site of the tomb of the unknown soldier. Packaging up that “collective history” beneath the signature party piece of two people is the height of crass. But there we are. We are in the age of the “more individual” individual, who is given free rein over the masses and allowed to plonk their brand’s calling card over one of the greatest symbols of selflessness in France. The dead artists’ real legacy, meanwhile, is a “holding company in the tax haven of Delaware”. The whole affair is antipopular, anti-republican and, frankly, “a triumph of charlatans”.