Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and The Mastaba 1958–2018

19 June - 9 September 2018

Serpentine Gallery, London

 

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are celebrated for their ambitious sculptural works that intervene in urban and natural landscapes around the world and temporarily alter both the physical form and visual appearances of sites. This summer, in the heart of London, the Serpentine Galleries presents a major exhibition of the artists’ work, which draws upon their use of barrels to create artworks. Simultaneously, Christo presents The London Mastaba, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park 2016 - 2018, a temporary floating sculpture on The Serpentine lake.

Born on the same day in 1935 in Gabrovo, Bulgaria and Casablanca, Morocco respectively, Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, began their collaboration in 1961 and their many celebrated public projects include Wrapped Coast, Sydney, Australia (1968-69), Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (1971-1995); The Gates, Central Park, New York City (1979-2005); and more recently The Floating Piers on Italy’s Lake Iseo (2014-2016). 

Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 28 Barrels Structure 1968, 265 x 278 x 68 cm, Private collection, courtesy Fondazione Marconi, Milan. 

Many years in the planning, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s outdoor projects generate an extensive archive of preparatory material detailing the organisation and execution of these projects, and those not yet realised. The Serpentine has worked closely with Christo to develop this new exhibition of sculptures, drawings, collages, scale-models and photographs, which spans six decades. It is the Serpentine’s second collaboration with the artist, following Christo’s participation in the 2016 Miracle Marathon.

Since 1958, barrels have been a dominant feature of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s sculptures and installations, which they have erected at varying scales internationally. The exhibition offers new perspectives on Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s career to the large-scale, wrapped and fabric-based works for which they are best known. It also traces the origins of this strand of practice, which began with wrapped paint cans and barrels and the artists’ first temporary public installation in Cologne Harbour in 1961.

The Serpentine exhibition is timed to coincide with Christo’s new temporary sculpture nearby, The London Mastaba, Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park 2016 - 2018. The sculpture takes inspiration from mastabas – benches with two vertical sides, two slanted sides and a flat top – which originated with the first ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia. The Serpentine show provides a rich context for this new work, for unrealised barrel projects at sites including the Suez Canal (1967) and MoMA, New York (1968), and plans for Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s most ambitious sculpture yet in the Middle East, which was first conceived in 1977.

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