Scale model (1979) of "The Mastaba"; Photo: Christo
The artist Christo has been known to make big gestures. He, along with his late wife and partner Jeanne-Claude, shot to fame for their larger-than-life installations that most famously saw Berlin's Reichstag, Paris' Pont Neuf, and even Sydney's coastline cloaked in miles of cloth. Last year, Christo received approval to proceed with another grand project to "wrap" a bend of the Arkansas River, scheduled for completion in 2014. This "exaltation of scale" is only part of the art, whose transformative merits are matched, if usually exceeded, by the great feats of planning and logistics, not too mention extensive (and creative) fundraising, necessary for the works' realization.
In what is perhaps the culmination of a career of big and bigger projects, Christo is now planning his largest ever project, the likes of which have not been seen in art. As the Guardian reports,"The Mastaba", which will rise 150 meters (492 feet) from the desert floor, is set to become the world's largest permanent sculpture. Oh, and at $340 million, it will be the most expensive sculpture in existence.
Scale comparison of "The Mastaba" and The Great Pyramid; Image: Christo
Christo first thought up the project in the late seventies with Jeanne-Claude, but was forced by regional conflicts (the Iraq-Iran War) to put it off for over 30 years. With backing from the Abu Dhabi cultural machine, the pair resumed planning sometime this past decade, scouting for possible sites in 2006 and up until Jeanne-Claude's death in 2009. Christo would settle on a site just outside of the city of Liwa in the UAE, where on land owned by the royal family the massive structure will stand.
Though it appears flat and tragically heavy, the mastaba will actually be constructed of 410,000 colored (empty) oil barrels, each of which will be colored differently so as to form a very large mosaic along the face of the structure. According to the Guardian, the installation is part of a nearby "art campus" that will also include, you guessed it, a luxury hotel and everything that goes along with it. Christo expects the construction to last 30 months, during which hundreds of workers will stack thousands of barrels over an area and height greater than those of the Great Pyramid at Giza.