The London Mastaba is Christo’s first outdoor, public work in the UK. The sculpture and exhibition offer an unprecedented opportunity for visitors to experience Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work.
Born on the same day in 1935 in Gabrovo, Bulgaria and Casablanca, Morocco respectively, Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, began their collaboration in 1961 and their many celebrated public projects include Wrapped Coast, Sydney, Australia (1968-69), Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (1971-1995); The Gates, Central Park, New York City (1979-2005); and more recently The Floating Piers on Italy’s Lake Iseo (2014-2016).
Many years in the planning, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s outdoor projects generate an extensive archive of preparatory material detailing the organisation and execution of these projects, and those not yet realised. The Serpentine has worked closely with Christo to develop this new exhibition of sculptures, drawings, collages, scale-models and photographs, which spans six decades. It is the Serpentine’s second collaboration with the artist, following Christo’s participation in the 2016 Miracle Marathon.
Since 1958, barrels have been a dominant feature of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s sculptures and installations, which they have erected at varying scales internationally. The exhibition offers new perspectives on Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s career to the large-scale, wrapped and fabric-based works for which they are best known. It also traces the origins of this strand of practice, which began with wrapped paint cans and barrels and the artists’ first temporary public installation in Cologne Harbour in 1961.
The Serpentine exhibition is timed to coincide with Christo’s new temporary sculpture nearby, The London Mastaba, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park 2016 - 2018. The sculpture takes inspiration from mastabas – benches with two vertical sides, two slanted sides and a flat top – which originated with the first ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia. The Serpentine show provides a rich context for this new work, for unrealised barrel projects at sites including the Suez Canal (1967) and MoMA, New York (1968), and plans for Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s most ambitious sculpture yet in the Middle East, which was first conceived in 1977.
A richly-illustrated catalogue by Taschen, titled Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and the Mastaba 1958-2018, will be published to accompany the exhibition and The London Mastaba in early July, with contributions from Christo, Serpentine Galleries Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist, Paul Goldberger and Adam Blackbourn, and photographs by Wolfgang Volz.
The exhibition is also accompanied by a digital Mobile Tour supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Mobile Tour offers visitors the opportunity to discover more about the exhibition, the sculpture and Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s practice through new audio, video and text content. It also features an interactive map to guide visitors between the various Serpentine sites: Serpentine Gallery, Serpentine Pavilion, Serpentine Sackler Gallery and The London Mastaba. The Mobile Tour is accessible and free for all at sgtours.org.
The London Mastaba, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park 2016 - 2018
Christo’s first large-scale public sculpture in the UK will float on The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park from 18 June to 23 September. Measuring 20m in height by 30m and 40m, the sculpture consists of 7,506 horizontally stacked barrels, specifically fabricated and painted in shades of red, white, blue and mauve. The proposal for the temporary sculpture included an ecological survey to ensure no damage to the lake or its surroundings. The sculpture is being paid for entirely by the artist and also presents a unique opportunity for enhancements to the conservation area and associated wildlife. As with all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s projects, The London Mastaba is funded through the sale of Christo’s original works of art. No public money will be used and Christo does not accept sponsorship.
Please note that attempting to climb onto the London Mastaba is strictly forbidden and safety measures are in place to enforce this at all times. The sculpture is for all to view but public safety is of foremost concern. Lake swimmers and boaters are kindly asked to keep a reasonable distance from the artwork for the safety of everyone.
From 10 July, The London Mastaba can also be experienced in virtual reality via the Acute Art app for free. Users can reach an elevation of 30m to look down on the temporary sculpture from a bird’s eye view and see it virtually at different times of day, from sunrise to sunset. Visit the Acute Art Museum on Steam or HTC Viveport for the full interactive experience or download the Acute Art app at Apple Store, Google Play or at sgtours.org.