Barf on Arc de Triomphe

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L’Arc de Triomphe, in Paris. (albomeadventures.com)

Christo plans to work his tragic on Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, draping it in blue fabric, but fortunately not until 2020, well after my family and I visit the City of Light, if we decide to go. The arch has been under siege for years, most recently by the yellow-vest protesters against the French president, and for decades by the insufficiently distant architorture of La Défense, so much more offensive since I last visited in 2003. The suburban La Défense, which mars the view through the arch up the Champs Élysées from the east, also represents the vandals at the gate – the future skyscrapers of central Paris, whom the city’s insane mayor has invited in to romp and ruin.

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Illustration of l’Arc under attack by Christo.

There should be a class-action lawsuit against Christo by the millions whose vacations he’s wrecked over the years with his wrapping of great monuments so that visitors cannot experience their beauty. Christo should be required to inform all potential travelers by certified mail well in advance of any future project, so that civilized people may schedule their visits accordingly, if they can.

But perhaps more effective would be the general dissemination of the best skit I’ve ever seen – a sendup both witty and profound by Stephen Colbert in 2005 before he left The Daily Show. His target is actually one of Christo’s least offensive installations, the Gates, in Central Park, which “reconceptualizes” what can be done with $25 million. A hospital wing? No, the redecoration of a bike path. Actually, Colbert torches not just Christo and the Gates but the world of art that takes Christo seriously.

Watch it and die laughing.

So before you do, first send it to all your friends and have them do the same, and maybe Christo will run for the hills, his head hanging in shame. Shame? Well, maybe not. Still, worth a try. Meanwhile, Christo, keep your mitts off the Arc de Triomphe. Paris and its many lovers should be up in arms over many things, but this is not the least among them.

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About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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6 Responses to Barf on Arc de Triomphe

  1. Many years ago, we were in San Francisco and went to see Running Fence. It was a beautiful work, drawing a line over the hills till it plunged into the sea at Bodega Bay. His wrapping of islands, and such is much less impressive.

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    • That sort of thing, by Christo or others, is less offensive. Yes, it does undermine the natural quality of the scene but it does not obliterate it. What bothers me is to cover up the scene so that it can’t be seen, possibly ruining or at least degrading someone’s visit. If Christo kept it to stuff like The Gates or Running Fence he would be less obnoxious if not less pretentious.

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  2. David Andreozzi AIA says:

    We need to pick our fights. You can love or hate art, especially temporary installations. That is arts purpose. One could argue that this installation is doing good for the fact that we will miss it, and appreciate it’s importance. I had the opportunity to see the Igor Mitojart exhibit at Pompeii… it was very odd, disturbing in some ways, and ruined my first time seeing these ruins, but as an cultural experience, it was amazing. I’ll go back. https://dreamofitaly.com/2017/03/04/last-chance-see-igor-mitoraj-exhibit-pompeii/

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    • Tell it, Dave, to the family that goes to Paris to see the arch and sees Christo instead! You yourself say you had an experience ruined by this sort of thing, and you went back again anyway. But not every family has the money to visit Paris multiple times. This piece by Christo makes art by trashing the art of another artist. It is high-society graffiti. It is beyond the pale. Oh no, this is a fight very well picked.

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  3. Oh, oh. I have been smitten by Christo’s “art” process – the encircling of islands in silk, the hovering-covering of rivers, the waving flags in Central Park that cry out to say ‘look at this’ – does anyone see how beautiful this place is, the one you jog or pass by without a true look see. But – to completely cover the Arc? No, this I agree with you. Sacré bleu! I wish you well on your trip…skip the Moulin Rouge – and I hope the yellow vests have calmed their protests. (Amazing that they bow to the rule of the yellow vest – something very French about that).

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    • Nancy, I can bear temporary art installations, and certain modern art works exhibit talent, but I cannot abide a work that smash-mouths another artist’s work, as Christo’s often does. Not the Gates. The Gates were okay – except that you might otherwise have built a new hospital wing with $25 million instead of redecorating a bike path.

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