Since 1977 Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been working on their largest mastaba of oil barrels, a project conceived for the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The couple is mostly famous for their ephemeral monuments obtained by wrapping famous natural sites, sculptures or buildings, but during the years they also conducted parallel studies for the creation of monuments entirely made of barrels. These projects usually employ hundreds or thousands of barrels piled to form walls, (like for the “Iron Curtain” which blocked the rue Visconti in Paris in 1962), or a “mastaba”, a flat topped rectangular structure with sloping sides, like in their 1968 project for the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, a structure of 1,240 oil barrels. The name and the shape of “mastaba” makes reference to ancient Egyptian tombs constructed out of mud-bricks or stone. Apparently, according to what Christo reported in an interview, “Mastaba is the old name of the mud bench found at the first urban place we know in the world—in Mesopotamia“.
The still unbuilt Abu-Dhabi Mastaba will be the world’s largest man-made sculpture, a 150 m (492-foot) tall structure made of 410,000 multi-colored barrels. Eventually, in 2012, after more than 30 years since its original conception, the artists obtained the building permissions and the site was approved. The sculpture/monument is indipendently financed by the artists as in the tradition of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s works: the couple usually produces an extensive amount of drawings in order to sell them and use the proceeds to finance the building of their works.
Easy speculations might point out the irony of the construction of a gigantic oil barrels monument in the region of Abu-Dhabi, but Christo has denied any polemical or political intent and underlined the aim for a pure aestethical pleasure of this majestic landmark which he doesn’t hesitate to compare to Bernini’s St.Peter or to the Eiffel tower. The barrels will come in ten different colors arranged to echo Islamic mosaics.
“Jeanne-Claude and I, we do these things for ourselves. If somebody likes it, it’s only a bonus. We do things we enjoy visually. But you should understand, the work is not in the results. The journey is the work—it’s incredible. These projects bring us to places that are so much richer than the art world or the art gallery or the museum. We get to work with so many different people. It’s like an adventure and it’s very exciting and it’s foolish. It’s totally irrational and useless. But Jeanne-Claude and I like to do them. Nobody asks us. We like to think them up and we like to build them” (Christo in an interview with Barbara Rose on “Interview magazine”)
All images © Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Interview of Christo with Barbara Rose on “Interview magazine“
Robynne Siegert says
What a beautiful object. I can only imagine the joy all who participated in building may have experienced on the journey towards completion. Takes my breath away!
Absolute waste Humans are dying starving
He is not an artist
Thus is not art. It is not beauty It is an offence to the dead A mockery of Egyptian history and life itself.
He should be sued.
Laurent S. says
I am shocked by the arrogant ignorance and bigotry displayed in a couple of venomous comments here. Christo is a long-time friend, and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, passed away a few years ago. I can assure you that there was no mockery *whatsoever* in this project. It happens that I built such a mastaba of colorful oildrums for Christo, in Paris, in front of the Museum of Modern Art, in May 1968. It was naturally of a much smaller scale, maybe 6 meter high, a lively, multicolored temporary ‘monument’ to commemorate nothing in particular, and –yes– it was quite beautiful. You don’t have to like abstract art, conceptual art, or this artist in particular, or whatever, and that’s OK, but you could spare us the display of your bilious insults.
Laurent Sauerwein says
I posted a comment here yesterday October 7, in response to what I felt were insulting comments about Christo’s Mastaba. That post was submitted for approval. I see that you have decided not to authorize it. It is a shame and I don’t understand what the problem is.
Laurent Sauerwein says
You have the right to do whatever you want on your website, but you *could* have the courtesy to reply to questions asked about a case of obvious censorship. I very often share your posts with a great number of people on Facebook, and therefore contribute to your site’s generally well deserved audience. This makes your attitude toward insulting comments about Christo quite inexplicable and, to tell the truth, disappointing.
fosco lucarelli says
Dear Laurent Sauerwein,
we have just read your comment(s).
First off, we are aware of your frequent reposts of our articles on facebook and we thank you for that.
As for the content of your comments: we have been away for almost a month now (in order to finish work for the opening of the Lisbon Triennale of Architecture 2016, as you may have seen on our facebook page, and to accompany our French students to a school’s trip to Vicenza in Italy). Therefore, we did not work for Socks during all this time, as the site is the product of only the two of us.
There wasn’t in any way an intended censorship towards your comments (which we agree on) about Christo’sMastaba, the only issue here is that we receive so much spam that we have to approve every comment one by one: since we simply didn’t have the time, your comments were still to be approved.
We hope everything is clear now and hoping this misunderstanding is over now,
All the best from Paris,
Mariabruna and Fosco