Christo Installs Giant Floating Sculpture on London's Serpentine Lake

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The London Mastaba, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, 2016-18
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The London Mastaba, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, 2016-18 | © 2018 Christo. Photo: Wolfgang Volz
Photo of Freire Barnes
Art & Design Editor18 June 2018

Known for creating monumental temporary outdoor sculptures, Bulgarian artist, Christo presents his first major public art work, The London Mastaba in the capital this summer.

Made out of 7,506 horizontally stacked barrels and weighing approximately 500 tons, The London Mastaba is installed in the middle of Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake.

At 20 meters (65.5 ft) high, 30 meters (90 ft) wide and 40 meters (130 ft) long – which in layman’s terms is about three times as tall as a Giraffe and five times as long as a London Bus – the temporary floating structure coincides with the Serpentine Gallery’s survey exhibition, Christo & Jeanne-Claude.

The London Mastaba on Serpentine Lake, 2018 | © 2018 Christo. Photo: Wolfgang Volz

Over the years, Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude created powerful outdoor interventions from The Floating Piers (2014-16) in Lake Iseo, Italy and the Surrounded Islands (1980-83) in Biscayne Bay, Florida to The Gates (1979-05) in New York and a variety of wrapped building projects.

Since the 60s the duo have used barrels for various projects, including creating a wall of 89 oil barrels to close a narrow Parisian street and realising their first mastaba structure that filled the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia’s atrium.

The London Mastaba, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, 2016-18 | © 2018 Christo. Photo: Wolfgang Volz

Since 1977, Christo has been working to realise a ginormous mastaba in Abu Dhabi, that would potentially be the largest sculpture in the world. So The London Mastaba gives residents and visitors to the capital an unprecedented chance to experience this pioneering work.

Using a team of experienced engineers, the barrels which are painted different hues of red, blue and mauve, are attached to a steel scaffolding frame that is constructed on top of a floating platform made from high-density polyethylene cubes.

Workers installing barrels on the vertical side of the London Mastaba, May 2018 | Photo: Wolfgang Volz

‘For a few months The London Mastaba will be a part of the Serpentine Lake and its natural and urban surroundings,’ said Christo.

‘I am excited to realise this temporary outdoor sculpture in the UK this summer. The London Mastaba in Hyde Park will be absolutely free to the public—no tickets, no reservations and no owners. It will belong to everyone (until it’s gone).’

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, The London Mastaba, 2018 | © 2018 Christo. Photo: Wolfgang Volz

For the creation of the project, which takes up approximately 1% of the total surface area of the lake, certain environmental factors have been taken into account so there will be no ecological impact on the water, wildlife and surrounding park area.

Apart from some rented equipment, any other materials used will be ‘industrially recycled’ in the UK, so as to cause as little ecological impact.

Christo, The Mastaba (Project for London, Hyde Park, Serpentine Lake), Drawing 2017 | © 2017 Christo. Photo: André Grossmann

The London Mastaba will be on view on Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park from June 18 to September 23, 2018.

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