There's a giant floater in the Serpentine ... and it's raising a stink
Cockapoos may approve of the monumental artwork in Hyde Park, but swimmers are considerably less enthusiastic
Nothing disturbs the peace of the Serpentine’s early morning swimmers, save for the odd disgruntled duck.
All that has changed with the arrival of The London Mastaba, a monumental artwork unveiled on Monday slap-bang in the middle of Hyde Park’s lake.
Towering 20 metres over the water and stretching 90 metres wide, the trapezoid is made of 7,506 brightly-coloured barrels affixed to scaffolding and designed by Christo, the artist famed for his super-sized installations.
Attending the grand unveiling on Monday, Christo said he welcomed both “critical or positive” reactions. At the Serpentine Swimming Club, where members must now swim down a narrow channel and avoid bumping into the platform that keeps the 600-ton structure afloat, there were plenty of both.“It casts a shadow on the water. We’re swimming in gloom,” complained one regular.
“It’s an affront to nature,” said another, referring to the red, blue and mauve colour scheme that Christo said he had carefully chosen in relationship to the surroundings.
The Bulgarian-American artist has positioned the sculpture directly opposite the bank where the swimmers enter the water because there it can be seen from the maximum number of viewing points within the park.
For every swimmer who described it as “hideous”, “intrusive” and an “ego trip” for the artist, there was another who loved it.“It makes a change from the wildlife. I’m all in support of good art,” said one, while a friend said: “There was a beautiful colour to the water this morning from the reflection.”
A passing dog-walker said the structure was a hit with her cockapoo “because it keeps the ducks away and she can go in the water”.
Christo, 83, has given no explanation for his work, simply saying it is designed to make people think. “To think – that is what makes us human,” he said.
This is his first large-scale work on Britain. He has previously wrapped Berlin’s Reichstag and Paris’s Pont-Neuf in fabric.
Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who now chairs the Serpentine Gallery, said: “The London Mastaba will bring all the benefits that come with great public art. It will add new energy to the city; it will help people see the familiar in a new light and provoke conversation and debate.“I think it’s fair to say that no two people will have the same reaction to it, and that’s exactly how great art should be.”
Bloomberg claimed that, according to one estimate from the London School of Economics, the sculpture could generate £150-million (over R2,7-billion) for the economy through increased tourism.
Loyd Grossman, chairperson of the Royal Parks, said the sculpture will bring “an immense amount of joy and inspiration” to visitors.It is in place for three months, and people can rent a boat on the lake to take a closer look.
Christo – who long ago discarded his full name, Christo Vladimirov Javacheff – self-funds his projects through the sale of his work. No public money is used and he does not accept sponsorship.
While The London Mastaba is one of the biggest sculptures to appear in London, for Christo it will soon be small fry. His next mastaba will be 10 times larger, sited in Abu Dhabi and dwarfing the largest Egyptian pyramid.
– © The Daily Telegraph