Christo begins ′The Mastaba,′ his new large-scale art object in London | Arts | DW | 05.04.2018
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Christo begins 'The Mastaba,' his new large-scale art object in London

Comprising thousands of 55-gallon oil barrels, the new sculpture by the revered artist will float on the Serpentine Lake in London’s Hyde Park. When completed in summer, the public can view the massive art work for free.

The ambitious artist originally conceived "The Mastaba" in 1977 with his wife, Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009. The pyramidal sculpture constructed from 410,000 multi-colored barrels was conceived for a site in the desert near Abu Dhabi. The intention was to create a mosaic of bright sparkling colors that would echo Islamic architecture.

Eventually, the artwork found a place in London, where construction works began on April 3. The downsized, temporary version of "The Mastaba" will consist of 7,506 oil barrels and will be 20 meters high, 30 meters wide and 40 meters long.

The object will be Christo's first major public, outdoor work in the UK and will float on the Serpentine Lake from June 18 to September 23, 2018.

Read more: The Art of Wrapping 

Free art for all

"I am excited to realize this temporary outdoor sculpture in the UK this summer," Christo said.

"Like with all of my projects, the construction, maintenance and removal of artwork will be entirely funded by me through the sale of my original works of art. The London Mastaba in Hyde Park will be absolutely free to the public — no tickets, no reservations and no owners. It will belong to everyone until it’s gone," he added.

The Floating Piers was a site-specific work of art by Christo and Jeanne-Claude that created a walkable surface between Sulzano, Monte Isola and the island of San Paolo (picture-alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler)

"The Floating Piers" was a site-specific work of art by Christo and Jeanne-Claude from 2016 that created a walkable surface between Sulzano, Monte Isola and the island of San Paolo.

The artwork is in line with his past projects: In 2016, Christo unveiled “The Floating Piers” in Italy, orange walkways set directly on the surface of the Iseo lake, which drew 1.2 million visitors; in 1995, he and his wife wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin with a silver fabric; and a decade earlier, they surrounded 11 of the islands in the Biscayne Bay in Florida with floating pink woven textile covering the surface of the water, extending the surface of each island.

Read more: "Floating Piers" falls victim to own success

The fabric that Christo uses in his objects symbolizes the ephemeral character of the works of art. 

Oil barrel protest art

The opening of "The Mastaba" will coincide with the artist's retrospective in the adjacent Serpentine Galleries. As Christo explained, the exhibition will explore the use of oil barrels in his works from 1958 to today and will provide important context for the London piece.

The site of The Mastaba in Serpentine Lake (Christo)

Environmentalists were involved in the planning of "The Mastaba." The artwork will tak up only one percent of the lake surface.

Christo and his wife and collaborator, Jean-Claude, caused a stir in 1962 with their project "Wall of Oil Barrels - Iron Curtain," wherein they blocked a Paris street with 441 oil barrels. The installation, which expressed the duo's disdain for the GDR regime and the construction of the Berlin Wall, took place without official permission.

Read more: Christo cancels major Colorado art project, citing Trump

As early In 1975, Christo designed a similar Mastaba in Texas; while three years ago he planted another version of "The Mastaba" in Saint-Paul de Vence in the southeast of France using 1,000 barrels.

But his latest oil barrel installation could be the pièce de résistance. 

Click through the picture gallery above to explore some of Christo's epic landscape art installations.

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