Christo to build world’s largest permanent sculpture in Abu Dhabi

Construction for the project, which features 410,000 oil barrels, will cost around US$340m
The Mastaba (Credit: Wolfgang Volz)

The Mastaba (Credit: Wolfgang Volz)

Christo, the artist best known for wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin and The Gates in New York’s Central Park, is building the world’s largest permanent sculpture at a cost of US$340m in Abu Dhabi.

Christo, who was in the emirate last month to launch the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, told the UK's The Observer he will create a 150m, flat topped pyramid using 410,000 multi-coloured oil barrels called The Mastaba.

The Al Gharbia site for the permanent sculpture has already been approved, Christo told the newspaper.

The project will be financed “independently” through sales of his work and “different investors”, he added. He declined to elaborate on whether or not the country’s ruling family is among the investors.

Abu Dhabi is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure, real estate and tourism projects as it moves to diversify its economy away from oil. Tourism projects include branches of New York’s Guggenheim and the Louvre.

Christo described the land, around 100 miles from Abu Dhabi city, as “spectacularly beautiful” desert landscape. Stacked oil barrels painted in colours inspired by the desert surroundings will recreate the visual effect of a mosque, he said. “When the sun rises, the vertical wall will become almost full of gold,” he added.

The artist first envisaged the sculpture through a series of images more than 30 years ago with his wife and artistic collaborator Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, but was forced to delay the project in the wake of the Iran-Iraq war.

Construction on the sculpture, which will also include a nearby art campus, luxury hotel and restaurant, is expected to take 30 months.

The Bulgarian-born artist launched the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award in Abu Dhabi last month. The award, named after himself and his wife and artistic collaborator, awards US$5,000 to winners to allow them to realise their projects.

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

NOTE: Comments posted on may be printed in the magazine Arabian Business

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: anguilla

RBH, would you mind enlightening the rest of us philistines on what exactly a stack of old oil cans in the middle of a pristine and 'spectacularly beautiful' area of desert is meant to achieve? Given that Abu Dhabi has prospered due to oil, and the burning and spilling of oil has contributed greatly to climate change and environmental destruction across the world, is it just meant ironically? Or else what is the 'environmental statement' being made here, that humans manage to defile even the remotest of landscapes?

Posted by: Sad

I have looked him up and saw what he has done. It doesnt matter. Why would this much money be spent on something that is non-functional? At least, hardly as functional as paying for an entire nation's poor. A fraction of this is given to those who are not in a position to help themselves. I have friends on low salaries that spent their Ramadan working at orphanages in Ethiopia where they admit they saw very little in help from anyone except a few extra hands to help build and feed. it always takes the private working class to really get in and help while staggering amounts of money is spent on posturing.

Posted by: RBH

Besides, not all hailed monuments out there are 'functional'.

Check out the Gateway Arc at St. Louis:

Posted by: RBH

"Sad," art doesn't always have a function. I advise you to learn more about art before commenting on it or criticising it.

Posted by: RBH

From an artistic perspective, it would be a evironmental artwork that would still put Abu Dhabi on the art world map.

I love art too and I am a fan of Christo's enviornmental artworks. They're usually that expensive too to accomplish, and I guess if the money is available then why should we stand in the face of an artistic and environmental statement such as this one?

Posted by: RBH

Mick, you need to learn more about art. Art doesn't stop at the Louvre or the British Museum.

Besides, this is an artwork that is solely accredited to Christo, not to UAE.

Posted by: Mick will take a lot more than this to put Abu Dhabi on any art world map. They are on the cultural map and historical map but art reputation is something that cities like Paris, New York, London etc have spent decades, if not centuries in procuring.
It's just one more rushed attempt to try and get to the front of the queue rather than slowly building credibility. The world won't see it as art but rather as just another over the top garish piece that has oodles of money behind it. Another pyramid made by low paid workers in the hot sun.

Posted by: Mee

Well I don't get what's so special about that. I mean yes it is an artistic piece, but it doesn't deserve all of that money.

Posted by: RBH

Well said, Ali.

Posted by: Rainigade

Sorry, but this is just a scandalous slap in the face of all the children dying in Gaza and other parts of the world. IMHO.

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

More from Arabian Business

US senator vows to block Gulf arms sales until Qatar crisis eases

Saudi economic potential lures investors

US Supreme Court reinstates part of Trump travel ban

Bahrain accuses Qatar of 'military escalation'

Dubai's Abraaj said to plan IPO of South African firm

Community comes first: CEO of iCare Insure, Leena Parwani Q+A