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The London Mastaba: Christo unveils his latest project

An imposing new sculpture has taken to the waters of the Serpentine Lake in London’s Hyde Park. Christo’s latest project, entitled “The Mastaba London”, is his first major outdoor installation in the UK. The Mastaba is 20 metres high, and is made from 7506 metal barrels painted in bright colours, which are mounted to form a pyramid on a fixed floating platform in the lake.

The sides of the barrels, visible on the two slanted walls of the sculpture, are red and white. The ends of the barrels, visible on the two vertical walls, are blue, mauve and a different hue of red. The colours and reflections created by the sculpture change depending on the light, producing a different impact depending on the time of day.

christo london mastaba
christo london mastaba

40 years in the making: The realisation of a vision

The new artwork is an impressive piece by an equally impressive artist. Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude have made the headlines across the world on numerous occasions, with their ambitious projects involving wrapping landmark buildings in fabric. In 1995, the couple wrapped up the Reichstag building in Berlin for 14 days; the spectacle attracted over five million visitors. After his wife’s death in 2009, Christo continued his object art alone.

Planning for the Mastaba project, which was originally conceived as an installation for the desert near Abu Dhabi, started way back in 1977. When deciding on both the name and the eventual shape of the installation, Christo and Jeanne-Claude drew inspiration from ancient Egypt.

“The Mastaba London” is a smaller version of the original design – but Christo still dreams of one day constructing the original Mastaba in full size. The originally planned Abu Dhabi pyramid would be 150 metres tall and be constructed from 410,000 oil barrels, making it a much bigger undertaking than its London counterpart.

If it is ever realised, the Mastaba will be Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s largest sculpture – and their only permanent installation. The artist is confident that he will one day be able to build his pyramid, remarking in an interview: “It is not sculpture only. That place will be a reserve, that surface of land, nothing else will be built. No house, no hotel, no skyscraper. It’s not only the thing, its the landscape itself, that is all the work of art. It isn’t like a Pyramid of Cheops.”

Christo's London Mastaba: Art for the masses

As is the case with all of Christo’s projects, the London Mastaba is financed by the artist and accessible to the public completely free of charge. The sculpture was officially unveiled on 18 June and will be floating atop the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park until 23 September 2018. Christo leaves it up to his audience to discover the deeper meaning behind his art. However, if you want to find out more about how the project came to life and Christo’s previous works with oil barrels, the “Barrels and the Mastaba 1958–2018” exhibition in the nearby Serpentine Gallery is well worth a visit. The exhibition is open until 9 September.

Source: Christo and Jeanne-Claude / Vimeo

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