Christo with his Mastaba plans. Photograph by Wolfgang Volz. Image courtesy of the Serpentine
Christo with his Mastaba plans. Photograph by Wolfgang Volz. Image courtesy of the Serpentine

Christo barrels into London

The artist will float an Egyptian burial mound made of oil barrels on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park this summer

Most city councilors, presented with a proposal to pitch over 7,000 barrels into a much loved lakes, would think twice before signing it off.

However, the 7,506 multi-coloured barrels Westminister Council has just approved for installation in Hyde Park's Serpentine Lake, aren't pollution, but instead the basis of a new work by Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude.

The world-famous duo, perhaps best known for temporarily wrapping the Reichstag back in 1995, will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the nearby Serpentine Gallery 20 June – 9 September 2018, and the installation on the lake will complement the show. 

 

Illustrations from the Mastaba planning application
Illustrations from the Mastaba planning application

Entitled the Mastaba, the temporary piece mimics an early Egyptian burial mound, a precursor to the pyramid, and will stand 20 metres high, 40 metres long and 30 metres wide, according to the planning documents. 

 

Illustrations from the Mastaba planning application
Illustrations from the Mastaba planning application

A scaffolding steel frame will support the barrels and the entire Mastaba will sit upon a floating platform of connected high density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic cubes. 

 

Illustrations from the Mastaba planning application
Illustrations from the Mastaba planning application

Christo, who despite having survived his partner still describes his works as being by Christo and Jeanne Claude, has been working on this project for decades. His greater plan is to create a monumental, permanent Mastaba from 410,000 barrels in Abu Dhabi.  

It might be some time before we see that one break ground. However, Londoners should look out for the first stirrings on the lake around 3 April, with the work fully on display for nine weeks, 18 June to 23 September 2018.

For more on Christo and Jeanne Claude's work, as well as much more besides, get a copy of Art & Place, and Land and Environmental Art.