Belgium to Unveil a 250-Ton Steel Sculpture—Europe’s Largest Public Artwork—35 Years After France Rejected It

French artist Bernar Venet, creator of Arc Majeur.
French artist Bernar Venet, creator of Arc Majeur. / Felix Baptist, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Without their bases, the Statue of Liberty is 151 feet tall and Rio de Janeiro’s famed Christ the Redeemer measures 98 feet. French artist Bernar Venet is about to best them both with Arc Majeur, a nearly 197-foot-tall sculpture soon to be installed along a Belgian motorway.

The sculpture consists of an arc on each side of the road, the shorter one reaching almost 92 feet, and the larger just shy of 197 feet. Together, they weigh 250 tons and create the impression that motorists are driving through about two-thirds of a circle open to the sky above. After its official unveiling in October, The Art Newspaper reports that Arc Majeur will become Europe’s largest public sculpture.

For Venet, the massive piece of art was a dream deferred for 35 years. French culture minister Jack Lang originally commissioned it in 1984 to be constructed near Auxerre, France, along the A6 motorway (which you can follow about 100 miles northeast to get to Paris). Then a local politician prevented the project from happening. The sculpture came close to construction again in the mid-2000s, but a French highway company wanted it to be painted red, which Venet unequivocally vetoed.

It has finally found a home in the Belgian town of Lavaux-Sainte-Anne along the E411 motorway (which you can take about 60 miles northeast to get to Brussels). Mechanical engineering conglomerate John Cockerill is bearing the financial and physical weight of the operation: Its philanthropic foundation contributed most of the $2.8 million needed for commission and construction, and its workshops built the arcs themselves.

This ain't Venet’s first roadside. According to Artnet News, he also created a 55-foot-tall sculpture called Arc ‘89 for a roundabout in Bonn, Germany, to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. But Arc Majeur is definitely (and literally) his biggest accomplishment to date. “After more than three decades,” he told The Art Newspaper, “this time it’s for real.”

[h/t The Art Newspaper]