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

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The London Mastaba, 2016-18, installation view, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, 2018. Courtesy: © 2018 Christo; photograph: Wolfgang Volz

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The London Mastaba, 2016-18, installation view, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, London, 2018. Courtesy: © 2018 Christo; photograph: Wolfgang Volz

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The London Mastaba, 2016–18, installation view, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, London, 2018. Courtesy: © 2018 Christo; photograph: Wolfgang Volz

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.

Christo, The Mastaba (Project for London, Hyde Park, Serpentine Lake), collage, pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, colour photograph by Wolfgang Volz and tape. Courtesy: © 2017 Christo; photograph: André Grossmann

Christo, The Mastaba (Project for London, Hyde Park, Serpentine Lake), collage, pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, colour photograph by Wolfgang Volz and tape. Courtesy: © 2017 Christo; photograph: André Grossmann

Christo, The Mastaba (Project for London, Hyde Park, Serpentine Lake), collage, pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, colour photograph by Wolfgang Volz and tape. Courtesy: © 2017 Christo; photograph: André Grossmann

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.

Most Read

The punk artists’s invasion of the pitch during the Croatia vs. France match reminded us what Russia’s new ‘normality’...
In further news: Brexit voters avoid arts; New York libraries’s culture pass unlocks museums; Grayson Perry-backed...
If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
The punk activist-artists have been charged with disruption after they charged the field during the France vs Croatia...
27 educators are taking the London gallery to an employment tribunal, demanding that they be recognized as employees
In further news: Glasgow School of Art to be rebuilt; Philadelphia Museum of Art gets a Frank Gehry-designed restaurant
Highlights from Condo New York 2018 and Commonwealth and Council at 47 Canal: the summer shows to see
Knussen’s music laid out each component as ‘precarious, vulnerable, exposed’ – and his conducting similarly worked from...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘You can’t reason with him but you can ridicule him’ – lightweight as it is, Trump Baby is a win for art as a...
Anderson and partner Juman Malouf are sorting through the treasures of the celebrated Kunsthistorisches Museum for...
From Capote to Basquiat, the pop artist’s glittering ‘visual diary’ of the last years of his life is seen for the first...
‘When I opened Monika Sprüth Galerie, only very few German gallerists represented women artists’
Can a ragtag cluster of artists, curators and critics really push back against our ‘bare’ art world?
In further news: German government buys Giambologna at the eleventh hour; LACMA’s new expansion delayed
Gucci and Frieze present film number two in the Second Summer of Love series, focusing on the history of acid house
Judges described the gallery’s GBP£20 million redevelopment by Jamie Fobert Architects as ‘deeply intelligent’ and a ‘...
Is the lack of social mobility in the arts due to a self-congratulatory conviction that the sector represents the...
The controversial intellectual suggests art would be better done at home – she should be careful what she wishes for
Previously unheard music on Both Directions At Once includes blues as imposing as the saxophonist would ever record
In further news: Macron reconsiders artist residencies; British Council accused of censorship; V&A to host largest...
In our devotion to computation and its predictive capabilities are we rushing blindly towards our own demise?
Arts subjects are increasingly marginalized in the UK curriculum – but the controversial intellectual suggests art is...
An exhibition of performances at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw, unfolds the rituals of sexual encounters
An art historian explains what the Carters’s takeover of the Paris museum says about art, race and power
Artist Andrea Fraser’s 2016 in Museums, Money and Politics lifts the lid on US museum board members and...
The Ruhrtriennale arts festival disinvited the Scottish hip-hop trio for their pro-Palestinian politics, then u-turned
The Baltimore’s director on why correcting the art historical canon is not only right but urgent for museums to remain...
Serpentine swimmers complain about Christo’s floating pyramid; and Hermitage’s psychic cat is a World Cup oracle: the...
The largest mural in Europe by the artist has been hidden for 30 years in an old storage depot – until now
Alumni Martin Boyce, Karla Black, Duncan Campbell and Ciara Phillips on the past and future of Charles Rennie...
In further news: po-mo architecture in the UK gets heritage status; Kassel to buy Olu Oguibe’s monument to refugees
The frieze columnist's first novel is an homage to, and embodiment of, the late, great Kathy Acker
60 years after the celebrated Brutalist architect fell foul of local authorities, a Berlin Unité d’Habitation apartment...
The British artist and Turner Prize winner is taking on the gun advocacy group at a time of renewed debate around arms...
The central thrust of the exhibition positions Sicily as the fulcrum of geopolitical conflicts over migration, trade,...
The Carters’s museum takeover powers through art history’s greatest hits – with a serious message about how the canon...
The 20-metre-high Mastaba finally realizes the artist and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s design
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
In the age of Brexit, why Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to return the ‘stolen’ Parthenon marbles has never been...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’
US true crime series Unsolved takes two formative pop cultural events to explore their concealed human stories and...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018