Christo: The London Mastaba

Martyn White

Posted on June 19 2018

Christo unveils The London Mastaba, the first large-scale works to be displayed in the United Kingdom, floating on the Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park.

The Serpentine in London's Hyde Park has taken centre stage as Christo unveils 'The London Mastaba', a 20 metre high floating art installation consisting of 7,506 vibrantly painted barrels, stacked and secured onto a scaffold frame, inspired by the shape of a Mastaba, a type of ancient Egyptian tomb. 

This is Christo's first large-scale works to be displayed in London, influenced by his late wife Jeanne-Claude's determination to make free art. The installation has been produced in conjunction with the Serpentine Galleries' Summer exhibition of Christo and Jeanne Claude's work, however, the installation itself is privately funded, being raised through the sale of original artworks by the artist to ensure total independence and freedom of design.

The London Mastaba by Christo floating on the Serpentine Floating installation on the Serpentine, the London Mastaba The London Mastaba from afar

Christo and Jeanne-Claude first started using barrels in their work 60 years ago, stacking them into sculptural forms and creating barriers and screens with oil drums, creating something new with something old. Six decades later, we are presented with an installation on an impressive scale, referencing the use of barrels but in a contemporary way, each painted in vibrant hues of red, blue and mauve to create an abstract mosaic of colours at either end, contrasting against the ripples of the water and the ever-changing movements of the London sky. The sides of the Mastaba have been painted in a brighter red, intersected with white stripes which transform the structure's presence as one walks around the edges of the Serpentine, slowly revealing a new face amongst the tree branches and foliage of the park. 

Christo London Mastaba Installation the Serpentine London Mastaba by Christo

Interlocking cubes have been used to create the floating platform upon which the London Mastaba stands, slightly submerged under water as not to obstruct its impressive form. The platform is also fixed in place by 32 anchors, each weighing 6 tonnes. Supported on a steel frame, the total weight of the sculpture comes in at 600 tonnes, which covers just under 1% of the surface of the lake. These impressive numbers help create a dramatic work of art, instantly recognisable upon approach to the Serpentine at all angles. 


The London Mastaba will be on public display on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park until 23rd September 2018 when it will be dismantled. Christo and Jeanne-Claude's 'Barrels and The Mastaba 1959-2018 will be on display at the Serpentine Galleries until  9th September. Both exhibitions are free to the general public. For further details on the exhibitions, click to view the official Serpentine Galleries website. Other works and information on the artist can be explored on the Christo and Jeanne-Claude website.



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