Christo unveils his new floating sculpture: “The London Mastaba”
This work is a 20-metre-high sculpture floating on London’s Serpentine Lake, which represents his and late wife Jeanne-Claude’s determination to make art free.
Based on the trapezoid shapes of mastaba, an Arabic word for bench given to Egyptian tombs and seats found outside homes in ancient Mesopotamia, the temporary sculpture is the realisation of the artistic duo’s shared dream of creating a floating version of a form that has fascinated them for half a century.
The London Mastaba, which is made of 7,506 painted barrels secured to scaffolding and anchored in the lake, was entirely self funded and is free to view by all.
Although the work has been produced in conjunction with the Serpentine Galleries summer exhibition of Christo and Jeanne Claude‘s work, the artist has maintained independence from galleries, government grants or patrons.
“I grew up in a terrible time in Stalinist Bulgaria, I escaped from there at the age of 21 to be an artist, free, with no restraint,” Christo told Dezeen at the unveiling of his sculpture in Hyde Park this morning, 18th June 2018.
“I won’t give a millimetre of my freedom [away] and damage my art,” he said. As with all of Christo and Jeanne Claude’s installations, the money was raised through the sale of original artworks. There are no assistants; all the pieces are made by the artist.
“This is why I do the things I like to do,” added Christo. “Nobody commissions these things, they are decided by us, nobody asked us to build a mastaba. This is all the unstoppable desire to do works of art.”
Christo survives his late artistic partner and wife Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009. They were born on the same day in 1935; Christo in Gabrovo, Bulgaria and Jeanne-Claude in Casablanca, Morocco. After meeting in Paris they began to collaborate on their public art works in 1961.
Beginning by using wrapping cheap and available paint cans in fabric, the pair scaled up to using discarded barrels to create temporary, guerilla-style artistic interventions in the streets of the French capital. Intrigued by the possibilities of the mastabas form, the pair pursued many as yet unrealised plans to build painted barrel towers in cities and landscapes around the world. Christo is still determined to realise their most ambitious plan yet; a 170-metre high barrel mastaba for the Abu Dhabi desert.
Photography by Wolfgang Volz