A Brief Introduction: London Mastaba

Since the late 1960s, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have had an interest in actualizing large oil barrel mastabas. Their first mastaba was installed in 1968 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. To date, they have only installed two mastabas, but have created concepts for many other mastabas around the globe. A third mastaba is planned to be installed in Abu Dhabi.

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Their largest mastaba, the London Mastaba, was installed in 2018 at Hyde Park in London. The installation consisted of 7,506 multicolored barrels stacked in a mastaba form and attached to a floating steel frame. The barrels themselves were painted in bright hues of blue, red, or purple. According to Christo’s plan, barrels were placed on a pre-constructed floating frame; on the two flat ends of the mastaba, single barrels were placed. On the two long sides and the top of the mastaba, barrels were fastened into long bars spanning the length of the mastaba’s frame. For accessibility, the initial construction of the mastaba was done on the edge of the water. Later, the London Mastaba was pushed into the center of the Serpentine.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude began their art careers in post-war France. Together, they create art that discreetly comments on contemporary global politics. While the installations may not outwardly seem to comment on political structures they often have deep rooted symbolism to contemporary politics either included visually or as a part of the education surrounding their projects. To install their installations, the artists work on a local level with city governments to obtain necessary permits for their projects. They use their involvement at the municipal level to educate not only about their specific art projects, but also the global political climate as well.

One of the more interesting elements of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s art practice is their inclusion of humor into their work. While taking themselves seriously as working artists, they incorporate humorous components into their work.

Created as a commentary for the global climate crisis due to the impacts of the oil industry, Christo and Jeanne-Claude ironically made their art out of the elements that they’re commenting on. The work itself also floats atop a picturesque lake in a beautiful park. This directly criticizes the role of the oil industry in destroying the global environment.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are very aware of the placement of their works. As with other site-specific artists the placement of their art is just as important as the installation itself. By choosing Hyde Park, the artists knew that viewers couldn’t help but comment on our global future if the oil industry isn’t stopped.