Christo’s Pyramid of 7,506 Brightly Coloured Oil Drums Turns London’s Serpentine Lake into an ‘Abstract Painting’
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
The artist Christo has unveiled his work The London Mastaba (2018), a 20-metre-high floating sculpture on London’s Serpentine Lake, constructed from 7,506 oil drums. The structure is based on the trapezoid shapes of a mastaba – the Arabic term for ‘mud bench’ – a form dating back to ancient Mesopotamia, and later seen in Egyptian tombs.
Produced in conjunction with a major exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries, The London Mastaba realizes the artist and his late wife and artistic partner Jeanne-Claude’s long-held wish to produce a floating edition of the form. Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009.
The dazzling platform of red, white, blue and mauve painted barrels, horizontally stacked and held together by 32 anchors and steel scaffolding, creates a play of colour across the lake’s reflection and the surrounding cityscape. ‘The colours will transform with the changes in the light and its reflection on the Serpentine Lake will be like an abstract painting,’ the artist said.
The GBP£3 million piece was completely self-funded through the sale of the artist’s own work, with Christo stating that he was not willing to give a millimetre of his freedom away and ‘damage’ his art. All the materials used in the artwork’s construction have been certified as having a low environmental impact, out of concern for the surrounding habitat.
The London Mastaba is the artist and his late wife’s first large-scale installation realized in the UK, and will stay afloat until 23 September 2018. Christo and Jeanne-Claude began working together in 1961, after meeting in Paris. They became famous for their large-scale wrapping projects – they covered Paris’s Pont Neuf in a golden fabric in 1985, and the entirety of Berlin’s Reichstag with a silvery wrap in 1995.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude shared a longrunning interest in the form of the mastaba. But many of their plans are still unrealized, including a 170-metre-high mastaba in the Abu Dhabi desert, conceived in 1979, which is still yet to gain permission.