Christo unveils first British project — mastaba on London lake

Environmental artist Christo debuted his first artwork in Britain on Monday — a 65-foot high floating mastaba made of barrels on London’s Serpentine Lake.

Bulgarian artist Christo stands in front of his artwork "The London Mastaba" built on the Serpentine Lake in London on Monday. Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
Bulgarian artist Christo stands in front of his artwork “The London Mastaba” built on the Serpentine Lake in London on Monday. Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

The temporary sculpture will remain on the lake until Sept. 23, coinciding with a exhibition of the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude — his late wife and former collaborator — at the Serpentine Galleries.

The artistic duo have been active in the environmental art world since the 1960s, creating large installation pieces that often involved wrapping major structures like the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris in fabric.

Christo’s latest work, The London Mastaba, returns to his roots of using 55-gallon barrels. In 1962, he and Jeanne-Claude blocked off the Rue Visconti in Paris with a wall of drums in response to the building of the Berlin Wall.

Christo used 7,506 barrels painted red and white along the sides and various hues of red, blue and mauve along the ends, to create a mastaba, a flat-topped rectangular structure akin to a pyramid with the top chopped off.

The artwork is 65.5 feet high, 90 feet wide and 130 feet long. Its footprint takes up about 1 percent of the surface of the lake.

Mastaba structures were used historically as tombs, specifically in ancient Egypt before the creation of the pyramids.

“The mastaba is a very ancient form,” Christo told The Guardian in April 2018. “It originated in Mesopotamia at the time humans moved from agricultural societies to urban ones. It became common as the shape of benches outside the first urban Mesopotamian homes. Later it became associated with pharaohs’ tombs.”

He told the newspaper that even though Jeanne-Claude — who, for decades never received any credit for the pair’s joint projects — died before the unveiling of The London Mastaba, she worked on the project.

By Danielle Haynes