Christo’s next project: a giant, pyramid-like sculpture in Abu Dhabi (photos)

November 24, 2012

Christo, the Bulgarian artist who wrapped Paris's Pont Neuf and covered Floridian islands in pink, has a new project in the works: He plans to eclipse the Great Pyramid of Giza with a giant, pyramid-like structure of his own.


Christo poses with a rendering of his planned Mastaba. (Photo by Wolfgang Volz, courtesy of Christo and Jeanne-Claude)

Christo, who uses only his first name, wants to build a 500-foot-tall, flat-topped pyramid in Abu Dhabi, claiming the result would be the world's biggest permanent sculpture.

The pyramid, to be known as "The Mastaba," would be made from 410,000 multicolored oil barrels and would be planted in a desert landscape in the  al-Gharbia region, 100 miles from Abu Dhabi city, the Observer reports.

Stacked barrels painted in colors inspired by the yellow and red sands will recreate the visual effect of an Islamic mosaic, [Christo] said: "When the sun rises, the vertical wall will become almost full of gold."

Christo told the British paper that construction of the Mastaba will take 30 months and involve hundreds of people. He said the oil drums are not a commentary on the oil-rich region but rather just a handy construction material.


The proposed Mastaba in comparison to the Great Pyramid of Giza. (Christo and Jeanne-Claude)

Christo added that he first had to persuade the royal family to approve the permanent installation but that he is now collaborating on the project with Sheik Hamdan bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince's older brother.

Construction costs are estimated at $340 million, which would make the Mastaba the world's most expensive sculpture as well as the biggest.

Christo has been known for decades for his bombastic fabric installations that take over natural landscapes,

Working with his wife, the late, orange-haired Jeanne-Claude, he also wrapped Berlin's Reichstag building in silver fabric in 1995 and constructed 7,500 saffron, cloth "gates" in New York's Central Park in 2005. The couple gained fame in the early 1970s by hanging a giant nylon curtain across a Colorado valley.

Their massive installations have also inspired controversy, however. Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management approved Christo's $50 million “Over The River” project, for which the artist plans to cover six miles of the Arkansas River with fabric in 2014, despite a years-long campaign by environmentalist groups to block the installation because, they believed, it might cause environmental degradation. In September, however, a federal judge ruled that the project is on hold until a lawsuit seeking to block it is resolved.

Christo seemed unfazed by the outcry, saying he liked the fact that his work was encouraging public participation.

We are elated,” Christo told the New York Times last year. “Every artist in the world likes his or her work to make people think."

Updates: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Christo's nationality. The post has also been updated with information about a federal judge's ruling to delay the Over the River project.

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Olga Khazan · November 24, 2012