Serpentine 2018: Christo and Jeanne-Claude into focus
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.
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.
A richly-illustrated catalogue by Taschen, titled Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and the Mastaba 1958-2018, will be published to accompany the exhibition and The London Mastabain early July, with contributions from Christo, Serpentine Galleries Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist, Paul Goldberger and Adam Blackbourn, and photographs by Wolfgang Volz.
Christo’s first large-scale public sculpture in the UK will float on The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park from 18 June to 23 September. Measuring 20m in height by 30m and 40m, the sculpture consists of 7,506 horizontally stacked barrels, specifically fabricated and painted in shades of red, white, blue and mauve. The proposal for the temporary sculpture included an ecological survey to ensure no damage to the lake or its surroundings. The sculpture is being paid for entirely by the artist and also presents a unique opportunity for enhancements to the conservation area and associated wildlife.