Made from 7,506 barrels and weighing 600 tons, there's more to the brightly-coloured structure than meets the eye
If you’ve passed through Hyde Park recently, chances are you would have spotted an enormous pink sculpture in the lake near the Serpentine Pavilion.
So what is this story behind this eye-catching new installation which has been the subject of much intrigue? Well, the giant pyramid is made from 7,506 brightly painted barrels and incredibly, despite weighing 600 tons, it floats.
The 20-metre-high structure, by artist Christo, the ‘London Mastaba’, is based on the trapezoid shapes of mastaba, an Arabic word for bench given to Egyptian tombs found outside homes in ancient Mesopotamia.
A tribute to his late wife Jeanne-Claude, the project is in keeping with the couple’s belief in making art free and the realisation of the artistic duo’s shared dream of creating a floating version of a form that had fascinated them for half a century.
As with all of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s installations, the project was funded through the sale of original artworks, and there were no assistants; all the pieces are made by the artist.
The floating pyramid’s painted barrels have been stacked horizontally on a floating platform made from interlocking high-density polyethylene cubes. A steel scaffolding rig holds the red, mauve and blue barrels in place and is anchored to the lake by 32 six-tonne weights. The barrels are supported by a steel frame and scaffolding system.
But the most striking feature is perhaps not the sculpture itself, but the way it changes the colour of the lake through its reflection, almost turning the water into an abstract painting.
The mosaic of vertical painted ends of the barrels in red, blue and mauve create an impressionist-style effect against London’s skyline, the park’s contrasting greenery and in the shimmering reflection of the lake.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude are best known for their barrel sculptures and worked in collaboration from the 1960s until Jeanne-Claude’s death in 2009. They first began experimenting with their style in 1961 by wrapping cheap and available paint cans in fabric to create temporary, guerilla-style artistic interventions in the streets of Paris where they met.
Intrigued by the mastabas form, the pair pursued many (and some yet unrealised) plans to build painted barrel towers in cities and landscapes around the world.
Christo is still determined to realise their most ambitious plan yet; a 170-metre high barrel mastaba for the Abu Dhabi desert.
A major exhibition of the couple’s work, entitled Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and The Mastaba 1958–2018, coincides with the installation, running at the Serpentine Galleries from 19 June to 9 September.
The London Mastaba will float on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park – freely viewable by the general public – until 23 September 2018.