Paris Arc de Triomphe to be wrapped: Fabric is made in Germany by SETEX

© 2021 SETEX
It all started in the mid-1990s in the reunified Berlin: SETEX-Textil GmbH supplied the fabric for the wrapping of the German Reichstag. For what was probably the last project of the artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the weaving machines were running at full speed again. For the wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the world-famous artists relied on the expertise of the textile specialist for the fifth time. Blue and grey polypropylene fabrics were produced at the Greven production site, which will completely cover the Arc de Triomphe in Paris from 18 September.
  • SETEX supplies more than 25,000 square metres of fabric
  • First collaboration with Christo in 1994
  • Company has been involved in five works created by Christo

It is Christo's last gift to the city of Paris; he has been planning this project for 60 years. After his death last year, Christo cannot witness the wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe at the weekend. In North Rhine-Westphalia the eyes are also on the French capital: SETEX-Textil GmbH, headquartered in Dingden, has supplied the fabric for the fifth time – but it was produced at the Greven site. "The relationship with Christo has grown over a long period of time - a very friendly cooperation, by the way," says Stefan Ott from the sales department for technical textiles of SETEX.

The cooperation began in the 1990s. The contact came about through Stefan Schilgen and his company of the same name, which was bought by SETEX in 2012. The company boss was an art lover and met Christo by chance when the artist was looking for a textile to cover the Reichstag. Schilgen was able to help - and the friendly conversations eventually turned into a partnership. Now, for the fifth time, the textile company has supplied the textiles for a project by the artist.

Stricter fire safety regulations after Notre Dame

Since Christo could no longer travel personally from his home in New York to Germany to plan the wrapping of the Arc de Triomphe due to his age, the coordination was done through confidants and mutual friends, as Ott explains. There were a few challenges to overcome. In addition to the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Notre Dame fire in 2019 led to fire regulations being tightened. "We had to re-sample everything again," Ott says. The fabric had to be coated accordingly to make it non-flammable.

The colour design also caused smoking heads at SETEX. "We are an industrial company that produces technical fabrics for technical applications, for example for the automotive industry. To us, for example, the colour of the textiles hardly plays a role.

It took a long time until the colour was finally right and until we had exactly the right feel," says Ott. "For Christo, visuals and haptics were naturally more important than technical properties. That's why we had to constantly make new designs. Until the final product was in the right colour and yarn thickness, there were several trials and numerous meetings." Even a new weaving machine was purchased for the project.

Fabric can be recycled – just as Christo intended

At the Arc de Triomphe, the substructure for the fabric panels is now completely finished, and on Saturday the approximately 25,000 square metres of fabric – a pure polypropylene fabric in the colours grey and blue – will be completely unrolled. The material used for the artwork is normally used for the filtration of food. "By changing the structure and colour, however, we were able to transform the fabric optimally for this project," says Ott. The material also has the advantage of being 100 percent recyclable. "That was always in Christo's mind: he wanted to create works of art that everyone could look at. But in the end, no one can take anything away from it. That's why this fabric will be recycled and can then be used for another purpose," the textile expert explains.

At SETEX, anticipation is growing more and more. "It is an exciting thing to know that you are working for a world-famous artist. It's not an everyday thing," says Ott. "I have my heart set on going to Paris to see the artwork, and I think some of our staff are planning to do the same."

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