christo faces the sands of time after 38 years of work
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Christo faces the sands of time after 38 years of work

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Emiratesvoice, emirates voice Christo faces the sands of time after 38 years of work

Christo and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, look for a possible site for The Mastaba
Dubai - Arab Today

Even though many of Christo’s memories may be cherished, not every anniversary is a cause for celebration.
"I am not a masochist, I don’t like to spend 38 years working on this project," says the white-haired artist who wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin, as he reflects on his proposal for the world’s largest sculpture, The Mastaba.
A brightly-coloured ziggurat made from 410,000 250-litre steel barrels, Christo has designed The Mastaba to measure 150 metres high, 225 metres deep and 300 metres wide, creating an edifice that would dwarf even the largest of Egypt’s ancient pyramids after which it is named.
The 81-year-old has been pitching the project to the authorities in Abu Dhabi since he first came to the country in 1979, which is a record even by his own prodigious standards.
The Gates, the Central Park project that Christo and his collaborator and wife, Jeanne-Claude, executed in Manhattan in 2005, was the product of 26 years of preparation and negotiatons; Wrapped Reichstag took 24.
The experience of bringing these works into being have made Christo a man of seemingly endless optimism and patience, determined to pursue the realisation of The Mastaba despite his advancing years.
His resolve, he insists, was strengthened further in January when he decided to walk away from the Colorado-based Over the River, a project that had been in preparation for 25 years and had already cost the artist US$15 million (Dh55m) in research, testing and planning.
As with the rest of his projects, Christo had funded Over the River through sales of his smaller artworks, the paintings and mixed-media collages sold to private collectors and museums that will be his only permanent legacy unless his plans for The Mastaba are realised. Now, for the first time in decades, the Abu Dhabi project represents Christo’s sole sculptural ambition.
"Each project has its own story and now this is the only project I have in mind and in one way that offers a kind of relief," he says. "The Mastaba has been pushed to one side on several occasions but now I want to dedicate all my time to it because it’s my longest-living project."
The UAE chapter of The Mastaba epic began in February 1979, when Christo, Jeanne-Claude and their long-term collaborator, the German photographer Wolfgang Volz, came to the Emirates for the first time in search of a location.
"At that time, from 1972 to ‘79, Christo and Jeanne-Claude had already realised the Valley Curtain in Colorado, Running Fence in California and Wrapped Walk Ways in Kansas City, Missouri, and on the first trip we travelled through all the emirates," Volz says.
"One of the amazing things that surprised me about Abu Dhabi at the time was that the cityscape was still very much sand. You would suddenly come across a little piece of desert in the middle of the city because the development then was still very uneven."
The trio arrived as guests of the French government – all visitors to the UAE at that time required an official sponsor and invitation – but Christo and Jeanne-Claude had spent a decade exploring possible sites for a sculpture in the Netherlands and Texas, but in this rapidly modernising new nation they found an option that was a very different proposition.
"I didn’t put my finger on a map and discover Abu Dhabi," Christo says, delving into The Mastaba’s pre-history, an extraordinary stop-start story of chance, circumstance, friendship and art history


Source: The National

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