Arc Majeur, an XXL Sculpture
In our second episode, “Can I Touch It?” we introduced you to the English sculptor Antony Gormley. Our favourite Gormley masterpiece, "The Angel of the North", stands tall on the panoramic hilltop, capturing the character of the region, the site of a former coal mine. Overlooking the busy A1 motorway in Gateshead, the steel sculpture reigns 20 metres tall, with wings measuring 54 metres across. While an in-person visit is crucial to truly grasp the breathtaking magnitude of this steel spirit, these measurements indicate its “XL” size.
At Art Fix, we believe that size matters, so let us introduce you to an “XXL” sculpture: the biggest sculpture in Europe. Coincidently, this monument also spans across a busy highway, indicating that perhaps perspective matters just as much as size!
“There are higher monuments in the world, but no bigger sculptures made by an artist,” says a spokesman for the sculpture’s creator. “The Statue of Liberty without its pedestal is smaller, and the Corcovado (Rio’s “Christ the Redeemer” statue) is half the size.”
The “Arc Majeur” is a monumental 60 meters tall, 75 meters wide sculpture in rusted Corten steel by French artist Bernar Venet, the conceptual sculptor infamous for his curved, mathematically-precise sculptures. The XXL “Arc Majeur” sculpture takes the form of a sweeping, circular arch springing from the earth on either side of a highway linking Brussels to Luxembourg in the Wallonia region. It gives drivers the sense that they are driving through the curved semi-circle — a testament to art becoming all-inclusive, and not just something reserved for Sunday with the in-laws.
The history behind this sculpture is also something worth uncovering. Originally in 1984, Venet proposed the arc to be near the French town of Auxerre in conjunction with the efforts by the French President François Mitterrand to ‘beautify ‘the country’s highways. Unfortunately, Venet’s proposal of the “Arc Majeur” was met with stern opposition by local politicians, causing its French application to be nulled. Yet there ain’t no rest for the wicked: Venet tried again in the mid-2000s, but abandoned the plan himself when French highway officials insisted he paint the Arc red.
After more than three decades of indecision, the “Arc Majeur” was finally unveiled in 2019; neither in Auxerre, nor in Paris, but in Belgium instead. And while France is home to many symbolic arcs, think the Arc de Triomphe and that of the French heroine Joan of Arc, a French destiny was not in the cards for Venet’s “Arc Majeur”.
That is why, Art Fixers, we urge you to keep your eyes peeled for this XXL Belgian beauty if you’re ever on a European road trip.
LOCATION: The “Arc Majeur” is installed near Lavaux-Sainte-Anne in Belgium along the E411 highway between Namur and Luxembourg.