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Sun 25 Nov 2012 11:09 AM

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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

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

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Sad 6 years ago

Sick.
This non-functional piece is costing a staggering amount of cash that could fee a continent. How do the sculptors themselves take on such a project without any guilt? Artists are, historically, meant to be less cash hungry and more soul-inspired and sentient.
We're really pushing the boundaries of shallowness now. First gazillion dollar Christmas trees and gold bar vending machines...now a sculpture costing hundreds of millions that means nothing, in the end. Whatever happened to humility and charity? We've now become a parody of ourselves.

Saudi Engineer 6 years ago

340 million USD?

Is that a typo, or did I misunderstand 340k USD? If we're talking millions, that's a LOT to pay for "art". I'm sure that much money could be put to much better use feeding the poor or building hospitals or schools - even if it is private investors.

Rainigade 6 years ago

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.

Mee 6 years ago

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.

Ali 6 years ago

I am sure skeptics said this about the Eiffel Tower, Burj Khalifa, Sydnet Opera House, Taj Mahal etc

RBH 6 years ago

I believe that this is another subject altogether that you're talking about, "Rainigade." It has nothing to do with this article.

RBH 6 years ago

They'll have enough money too to build whatever you're asking for, "Saudi Engineer."

RBH 6 years ago

"Mee," not eveyrthing is for free. Even art.

RBH 6 years ago

Not every artwork is a functional piece, "Sad." I advise you to take a look at the artworks of Christo to better understand such environmental artworks and what message do they normally try to acheive: www.christojeanneclaude.net/

As for the charity part, I'm pretty sure that there is still enough money too to fulfill this need.

RBH 6 years ago

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?