Christo presents The Mastaba, his new large-scale art object in London | Arts | DW | 18.06.2018
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Christo presents The Mastaba, his new large-scale art object in London

Composed of over 7,000 oil barrels, the sculpture by the revered artist floats on the Serpentine Lake in London's Hyde Park through September 23. It accompanies a retrospective of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's work.

Renowned environmental artist Christo presented his latest work, titled The Mastaba, on Monday.

The ambitious artist originally conceived the installation 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 consist of 7,506 oil barrels and is 20 meters high, 30 meters wide and 40 meters long.

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

Read more: The Art of Wrapping 

Free art for all

"This is a very special summer day," Christo said on Monday as the unveiled work shimmered in the sun. "All interpretations are open, because they all lead us to think — and thinking is what makes us human."

"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 had said about his piece back in April.

The work cost 3 million pounds (€3,4 million) to produce.

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. 

Read more: Floating Piers falls victim to own success

In 1995, he and his wife had 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.

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 coincides with the artist's retrospective in the adjacent Serpentine Galleries. As Christo explained, the exhibition explores the use of oil barrels in his works from 1958 to today and provides important context for the London piece.

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

The site of The Mastaba in Serpentine Lake (Christo)

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

Christo and his wife and collaborator, Jeanne-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.

In 1975, Christo designed a similar mastaba in Texas; three years ago he also set up another version of The Mastaba in Saint-Paul de Vence in the southeast of France, using 1,000 barrels.

 

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