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“Abu Dhabi Mastaba (Project for United Arab Emirates)”

“Abu Dhabi Mastaba  (Project for United Arab Emirates)”

Christo and Jeanne-Claude looking for a possible site for The Mastaba February 1982 Photo: Wolfgang Volz © 1982 Christo

444. Christo (Bulgaria/USA born 1935). ”Abu Dhabi Mastaba (Project for United Arab Emirates)”.
Signed and dated Christo 1978. Pencil, pastel, charcoal, wax crayon and printed map on paper, 78 x 59 cm.

SEK 200.000 – 300.000     € 21.000 – 31.000 

Christo Vladimirov Javacheff was born in 1935 in Bulgaria, but later settled in communist-controlled Prague. After escaping the country in 1957 he moved to France the following year after a brief stay in Austria. In Paris, Christo earned his living by painting portraits. He socialized with Arman, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Yves Klein – a group of artists who used everyday items in making their art. During this period Christo began to package objects in fabric and other materials. At first, he used the smaller items such as bottles and cans, but gradually increased the size of the objects. This process of wrapping became the defining hallmark of Christo and it questions the limitations of art, such as the idea that a sculpture is a permanent object, and his work liberates art from the confinements of its traditional forum of galleries and museums.

The synthetic materials and fabrics forms an artificial skin by hiding parts of reality which makes us more aware of them and transforms our view of our surroundings. Christo continued to implement his ideas in new projects with his wife, Jeanne-Claude, and their first collaboration was conceived 1961. They directed their energies primarily to the realization of temporary projects in which they varied the notions of obscuring through wrapping, blocking and the altering of context by the intrusion of an unexpected element. They created his wrappings using industrial materials, usually polypropylene sheeting or canvas tarpaulins, which are held in place with irregularly tied ropes. These projects began to take monumental proportions made possible by the use of industrial technique and engineering. This allowed them to dress buildings and landmarks in various materials and thereby creating environmental art. Some of their most famous works are the wrapping of the Kunsthalle in Bern, the Reichstag in Berlin and “Wrapped Coast” where 1.5 km of coastline outside Sydney was packed in with 90,000 m2 of synthetic fabric. In connection with their monumental work, Christo combined sketches, collages, models and photomontages, to make images depicting the artistic process, making them into works of art themselves. In other cases these versions depict the planning of projects to come such as the lot presented in this sale, Abu Dhabi Mastaba (Project for United Arab Emirates).

The mastaba originates from Mesopotamia and is a flat-topped, rectangular building with sloping sides. It was used for travellers to rest upon outside homes. The artists realized their first mastabas at Cologne Harbor in 1961 and Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. The Mastaba project for Abu Dhaba was conceived in 1977 and the lot included in this sale was created only a year after.

The artists themselves described the project with the following words:
”The symbol of the Emirate and the greatness of Sheikh Zayed, the Mastaba will be taller and more massive than the Cheops Pyramid near Cairo. The symbol of civilization of oil throughout the world. The Mastaba will be made of 390,500 oil barrels. The project has the most unique character. Nothing comparable has ever existed in any other country. Hundreds of bright colors, as enchanting as the Islamic mosaics, will give a constantly changing visual experience according to the time of the day and the quality of light. The grandeur and vastness of the land will be reflected in the grandeur and majesty of the Mastaba which is to be 300 meters (984 feet) wide, 225 meters (738 feet) deep and 150 meter (492 feet) high. The only purpose of this monument is to be itself. The Mastaba of Abu Dhabi can become the symbol of the Emirate and of the 20th Century oil civilization.

The Mastaba will be constructed of materials relative to the area: inside, natural aggregates and cement to form a concrete structure with a sand core; and outside, an overall surfacing of 55-gallon stainless steel oil barrels of various bright colors: All Barrels, on the 4 sides and on the top, will be installed so that they are lying horizontally on their sides. The two 300 meter (984 feet) wide sides will be vertical showing the circular heads of the colored barrels. The two 225 (738 feet) ends will be sloping at the 60 degree natural angle of stacked barrels showing the curved side of the barrels. The top of the Mastaba will be a horizontal surface 126.8 meters (416 feet) wide and 225 meter (738 feet) deep showing the rounded length of the barrels. The volume of the Mastaba will be such that many 48 story skyscrapers could easily fit into its massiveness. It is suggested that the Mastaba be situated on a slightly rising plain to allow viewers the full impact of the grandeur of the Mastaba as they approach by foot, by automobile, or by airplane. There will be no ingress except for a passageway to the elevators to take visitors to the top 150 meters (492 feet) above the ground. From there they will enjoy superb views, being able to see approximately 50 kilometers across the countryside.

The area adjacent to the walkways approaching the Mastaba will be like an oasis to the visitor with flowers and grass. There will also be planting of palm trees, eucalyptus trees, thorns trees and other shrubbery surrounding the Mastaba at a distance to serve as a windbreak minimizing the force of the sand and windstorms. Within this distant area there could be complex with a worship room, parking and facilities for the visitors and lodging for the curator and guardians.”

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