Artist Christo, famous for his large-scale landscape interventions, has completed work on The London Mastaba, a massive trapezoid made of multi-colored barrels and set afloat in London’s Serpentine Lake. The installation sits adjacent to the Serpentine Gallery and will run concurrently with the gallery’s retrospective of Christo and late wife Jeanne-Claude work.
The London Mastaba is Christo’s first large-scale installation in the UK, and the trapezoidal form and the use of barrels is a return to both a shape and a material that Christo and Jeanne-Claude have consistently explored throughout their long career.
The temporary sculpture, floating in the middle of the historic Hyde Park on top of an interlocking platform, was designed to be extremely visible without damaging the ecologically sensitive lake. The 7,506 barrels, arranged to create a colorful face on either side of the trapezoid, are stacked 65 feet high, 130 feet long, and 90 feet wide. When reflected in the surrounding lake, The London Mastaba’s split-face creates an ever-changing reflection. Much like the Serpentine Pavilion nearby, the sun’s movement over the course of the summer and resultant shadows will alter the work’s appearance every day.
In name, form, and color, The London Mastaba references Islamic art. The red-and-white stripes on the round side of the barrels creates a visually homogenous “outer coating,” while the mauve, blue, and red outer walls are abstractions of the pointillist-styled artworks found in Islamic architecture. Even the word Mastaba references similarly-shaped Egyptian tombs.
“For three months, The London Mastaba will be a part of Hyde Park’s environment in the centre of London,” said Christo in a statement. “The colours will transform with the changes in the light and its reflection on the Serpentine Lake will be like an abstract painting. It has been a pleasure to work with The Royal Parks to realize The London Mastaba and with our friends at the Serpentine Galleries to create an exhibition showing Jeanne-Claude’s and my 60-year history of using barrels in our work.”
The London Mastaba and accompanying show Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and The Mastaba 1958-2018 are free to the public. As with his other pieces, Christo has entirely self-financed the sculpture’s construction through sales of original works of art. The London Mastaba is currently open to the public and viewable through September 23, 2018, while the exhibition will run from June 19 through September 9, 2018.
Christo is also well known for his fabric installations; the Lake Iseo-spanning The Modular Pier in Italy drew major crowds to the region in 2015, while the series of gates installed throughout Central Park in 2005 were met with widespread media attention (for better or for worse).