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.