‘It is almost like to build a new Eiffel Tower, it will be a landmark for the 21st century,’ says Christo of the Dh1.25 billion sculpture that would be crafted from 410,000 oil barrels, standing 150 metres tall in the Liwa desert
“All of my life, and Jeanne-Claude’s, has happened through serendipity,” says 83-year-old artist Christo, as he tells the story of how he first came to Abu Dhabi with his wife in 1979.
It was on that trip that a lifelong ambition for the environmental artists was fermented – to build what would be the world’s largest sculpture, known as a mastaba, in the Liwa desert. It would rise 150 metres and span 300 metres along its vertical walls.
In the years that followed, Bulgarian-born Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude put plenty of energy into trying to see their Abu Dhabi mastaba realised, but it has yet to happen.
Although Jeanne-Claude – Christo’s collaborator and wife, who was born on the same day as him – died in 2009, the artist is unwilling to let go of their mastaba dream. Almost four decades after his first visit to Abu Dhabi, a much smaller-scale, floating, temporary mastaba has been built on the Serpentine lake in London’s Hyde Park. The London mastaba is made out of 7,506 barrels – the proposed one for Abu Dhabi would be crafted from 410,000 barrels.
Completing the London mastaba has not diminished Christo’s passion for the Abu Dhabi project. For a start, the two are “completely different”, he tells The National at an exhibition of his and Jeanne-Claude’s artworks at the Serpentine Gallery. On the official Christo site, the UK work is called The London Mastaba, while the proposed Abu Dhabi piece is referred to definitively as just The Mastaba.
“In Mastaba Abu Dhabi there are many hues of warm yellow, okra. Yellow is the principle colour,” he says, talking about the project as if it is already built. “But there’s no yellow in that mastaba,” he smiles, gesturing toward the blue-and-red floating structure on the lake outside.
The word mastaba means “mud bench” in Arabic, a place for sitting and conversation originating from the historical region of Mesopotamia. Jeanne-Claude and Christo came across the form before the first Abu Dhabi visit and made unrealised plans to build mastabas on Lake Michigan and Texas.
Full article: The National