London’s Serpentine pedalo peddlers, swans and swimmers have a new companion this summer, the Christo London Mastaba. It is huge.
WHO IS CHRISTO?
Christo is the man who wrapped the Reichstag. Together with his late wife Jean-Claude, he has created monumental and largely temporary works of art since 1961. Christo was born in Bulgaria and grew up under communism, aged 21 he defected. Growing up in a country where government control was very strict left him with a desire for his art not to be controlled in any way, this means that all his projects are self funded. No taxpayers’ or sponsors’ money has gone into the construction of the London Mastaba: it has all come from Christo’s pocket.
CHRISTO LONDON MASTABA – FACTS AND FIGURES
How many barrels? There are 7,506 barrels stacked horizontally on a floating platform. It is forty metres wide, thirty metres deep and twenty metres high. It weighs 650 tonnes and is held in place by 32 six tonne anchors. The Mastaba takes up 1% of the lake surface and changes with the light. I was lucky on the day that I visited to have weather that changed from dark and threatening to bright and sunny. At the moment that Christo stepped forward a shaft of sunlight broke through.
HOW LONG WILL THE LONDON MASTABA FLOAT ON THE SERPENTINE?
You have until 9 September 2018 to go Hyde Park and see this massive piece of sculpture for yourself. Just how you view it is up to you. You could stroll around the entire perimeter of the Serpentine, as I did. It took me quite a long time because almost every other step I had to stop and take another photo. Stop for a cup of coffee or a spot of lunch at the Lido Bar and Cafe which gives an excellent view of the Christo London Mastaba. Pack your swimming costume and you could swim just metres away from the cliff faces of the London Mastaba. Or you take to the water, pedals are available to hire enabling you to circumnavigate the Mastaba, this is what I shall be doing in a couple of weeks time with friends from Twins Club. If pedalling is too much effort there is a Solar Shuttle that makes its way from the Diana, Princess of Wales fountain to the northern shore of the lake.
WHAT IS A MASTABA?
Good question, there are two answers. First of all it is a stone bench found outside Mesopotamian houses. Then the Egyptians took the word and the shape and used it for early burial tomb. Translated from Ancient Egyptian it means House for Eternity or Eternal House. So an early type of pyramid. The London Mastaba is a trapezoid shape, as are all mastabas, the flat walls rear up at 90° to the water and sloping sides at 60°. Should you want to know more about how Christo and Jean-Claude evolved their idea for the Mastaba there is a free exhibition on at the Serpentine Gallery.
There are plans to construct an even larger Mastaba in Abu Dhabi, made from golden barrels at eight times larger it would be the largest sculpture in the world. Christo says that he doesn’t mind what people think of his massive sculpture.
“Every interpretation is legitimate. Critical or positive. It makes you think”
What do you think? Do you feel the need to head to Hyde Park or do you think that the Serpentine is best left to swans and swimmers?
HOW TO SEE THE LONDON MASTABA
- No tickets are needed, the park is open daily from 5am until midnight.
- Serpentine Gallery, open daily 10am – 6pm, free
- Nearest tube stations Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate and South Kensington.
- Pedalos are available to hire 10am – 7pm every day. £12 adult or £5 child or £29 family per hour
- Lido Café and Bar, open daily 8am – 9pm
London has many enticing exhibitions on this summer, check out my guide to Best London Exhibitions Summer 2018.
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