The London Mastaba was the first major outdoor public work by Christo in the UK, and it coincided with an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery of Christo and his late wife Jeanne–Claude’s work, Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and The Mastaba 1958–2018.
The London Mastaba consisted of 7,506 horizontally stacked barrels on a floating platform, 20m in height, 30m wide x 40m long. Standard 55 gallon barrels were fabricated and painted for the sculpture. The sides of the barrels, visible on the top and on the two slanted walls of the sculpture, were red and white. The ends of the barrels, visible on the two vertical walls, were blue, mauve and a different hue of red. The sculpture’s floating platform was made of interlocking high-density polyethylene (HDPE) cubes and was held in place with 32 6-tonne anchors. The barrel-supporting substructure consisted of scaffolding and a steel frame that connected to the floating platform. The sculpture’s total weight was 600 metric tonnes and its footprint took up approximately 1% of the total surface area of the lake. All construction materials were certified as having low environmental impact to preserve the ecosystem of the lake. The removal of the sculpture will begin on 23 September 2018. While some equipment and materials, such as scaffolding, have been rented and will be returned, the other materials will be removed and industrially recycled in the UK following the project.
The proposal for the temporary sculpture included an ecological survey to ensure no damage to the lake or its surroundings. The Royal Parks worked very closely with Christo and his team on this project and as a result The Serpentine Lake will benefit from substantial investment after the sculpture has gone. This includes ecological improvements on Serpentine Island and creating new habitats, including terrestrial invertebrate habitat creation, waterfowl refuges, heron baskets and bird and bat boxes. Works will improve conditions in the lake, including litter clearance and the re-treatment of Phoslock on the lakebed, to reduce the growth of harmful algae, and are scheduled to take place at a time to cause minimal disruption to wildlife and habitats.
The sculpture was 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 was funded through the sale of Christo’s original works of art. No public money was used and Christo does not accept sponsorship.
The Serpentine Mobile Tours, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, offered 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 featured 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 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.