Christo’s Mastaba to be unveiled on June 18th in London’s Hyde Park
Christo will be creating an outdoor work for the first time in the UK: a huge-scaled mastaba.
BY SOFÍA PALACIOS
Christo and Jeanne-Claude are considered to be one of the most iconic artistic duos of the 20th century. Both based in New York since 1964, through the mutual nourishment of their artistic facets, they began to create environmental related installations. Wrapped Coast (1968-1969) in Australia or The Gates (1979-2005) in Central Park are just two examples of the couples’ outdoor works. These gigantic-scaled sculptures and installations mainly consist on wrapping large architectural structures or landscapes with fabrics that would later be recycled. In 2009, Jeanne-Claude passed away but Christo continued to work under both names.
In 1977, the couple conceived The Mastaba: a permanent project for Abu Dhabi aiming to create the largest sculpture in the world. However, this year, on June 18th, the artist will be inaugurating a temporary, floating Mastaba on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. The outdoor piece in London will coincide with an exhibition of both Christo and Jeanne-Claude at Serpentine Gallery aiming to reflect upon their history of using barrels throughout their creative process. The project was brought up for the first time in 2016 and later on, Christo proved out its doability by building a smaller model in the Black Sea near the Bulgarian coast.
The Mastaba, located just behind Kensington Palace, will be wafted by the gentle movement of water, as it’ll be anchored to one spot but still be able to bounce up and down the lake. 7,506 is the number of oil barrels needed for creating the trapezoidal structure that will weigh around 500 tons and will be nearly 20 meters tall. A group of engineers will be in charge the disposing of the barrels on the floating platform. The sides of the barrels on top, and of the ones placed on two of the slanted walls will be painted red and white. Whereas the rest of them are going to be coated in different tones of mauve, blue and red. The chromatic palette is a clear gesture to the British flag as the one planned for Abu Dhabi will be orange.
Christo assured on an interview for The New York Times, that the most stimulating part of the project was that the sculpture will be detached from the urban landscape and will be instead surrounded by ‘this incredible vegetation’ in an open area. The couple’s Mastaba will inevitably alter both the physical perception and the visual experience of the Serpentine Lake. This will allow the viewers to contemplate such a world-wide known location at Hyde Park from a completely new viewpoint regarding formal, energetic and volumetric aspects. Christo’s preparatory drawings of The Mastaba give us a clear insight into the importance of the aesthetic impact in the duo’s work. The outdoor work - which imitates the ancient tombs built in Mesopotamia - goes beyond any artistic convention by performing actively upon the environment and challenging the notion of a sculpture as something permanent and rigid.
In addition to its groundbreaking nature, the way the monumental piece will be funded is also quite unconventional. Christo and Jeanne-Claude also stood out for rejecting the gallery system. As art expert Laura Fiesel highlights they refused to ‘negotiate sales of drawings and commissions through an art dealer.’ Based on this clear stance on political and economic policies of the global art market, the couple financed a major part of their artistic production. In this occasion, Christo will be funding The Mastaba - which is estimated to cost 4.2 million dollars - by selling his art.
For those of you planning a visit to London anytime soon, don’t miss this once life opportunity of enjoying The Mastaba that will be on view until September the 23rd. The uniqueness of the project, as well as its extraordinary scale, impeccably convey what creating art meant both for Christo and Jeanne Claude: they conceived the artistic process as the joy, beauty and freedom of coming up with new ways of reinterpreting familiar landscapes.