A highway in Belgium has been confirmed as the site of the world’s tallest public artwork, measuring at an astounding 60 metres, or twice the height of the statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro and significantly taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York.
The 250-tonne steel structure is called Arc Majeur and is set to stand over the busy E411 motorway between the city of Namur and Luxembourg. The official inauguration is scheduled for October but the installation of its base are set to begin in August.
The French artist behind the work, Bernar Venet, told the Guardian that the structure will be a purely artistic one, the tallest of its type, and will be visible from over 3km away.
The history of the arc, with its €2.5m budget, has been a troubling one, involving two failed attempts to install it in France. It was originally set to be erected in 1984 near the city of Auxerre, but was cancelled by the local mayor despite its endorsement by the French culture minister at the time. Venet attempted to resurrect the sculpture over a road in Burgundy but was quickly faced with opposition and ultimately rejected the proposal when the president of the French highway department asked for it to be steel red.
It was only after Venet worked with the Belgian mechanical engineering company, CMI, and its charitable foundation, that the project was restored and reconsidered.
“There are lampposts everywhere in Belgium, but here for 15 to 20 kilometres there are no poles. The driver will have plenty of time to discover it. What’s interesting about the sculpture is that people will not stop and look at it. It will be seen when people are in movement – and they will go through it and away,” Venet told the Guardian.
The sculpture will comprise of two arcs, 28 and 60 metres in height, respectively, that emerge from the ground on both sides of the highway. Over 1,000 tonnes of concrete will be used to keep the whole thing in place.
Venet has been widely recognized as one of France’s greatest living artist. In 2016, he built a 20-metre high arc at a roundabout in Bonn, Germany, called ARC ’89, in commemoration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Another arc of his was installed near the Palace of Versailles in 2011 but was only temporary and had faced some criticism.
Venet has been described by Forbes magazine as one of France’s greatest living artists. “I had the idea in 1979 of two arcs on a road,” he said. “I thought it would be wonderful to do that. This is a dream for me.”
The Arc Majeur will soon stand among the tallest structures in Europe, coming behind the 102-metre Motherland statue in Ukraine and the 110-metre Sanctuary of Christ the King in Almada Portugal. The tallest monument in the world however, resides in India measuring at 182 metres in height and depicting India’s first deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.