Christo’s giant ‘mastaba’ unveiled in London — next stop Abu Dhabi

Artist Christo stands in front of his work The London Mastaba, on the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London, on Monday. Reuters
Updated 19 June 2018
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Christo’s giant ‘mastaba’ unveiled in London — next stop Abu Dhabi

  • The London Mastaba is Christo’s first major outdoor public work in the UK, but in many ways it is a trial run for what many believe he intends as his legacy: A permanent mastaba constructed in the desert in the UAE
  • That structure will stand 150 meters tall and be made of 410,000 barrels painted in ten different colors

LONDON: It stands 20 meters high, weighs 600 tons and needs 32 anchors to stop it floating away.
Amid much fanfare and an unseasonably chilly wind, the London Mastaba by the renowned artist Christo was launched on Monday on the Serpentine lake in London’s Hyde Park.
The Mastaba is a ziggurat, a sort of pyramid with two sloping and two vertical sides, and the top sliced off, made of 7,506 barrels painted red, blue and mauve and all piled up on a polyethylene platform.
The word mastaba simply means “bench” in Arabic. The shape dates back to at least 6,000, when such benches first began appearing outside dwellings in ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).
As Christo cheerfully admits, like all of his art — the silvery wrapping around the Reichstag in Berlin, the 7,503 gates hung with saffron-colored fabric in New York’s Central Park — it has no function but to look beautiful and excite the onlooker, at least for a while. The London Mastaba will remain on display until Sept. 23.
The Bulgarian-born artist arrived in fitting manner by boat to be paraded before an assembled throng of admirers, art world top brass and more than 200 members of the international media.
The London Mastaba is Christo’s first major outdoor public work in the UK, but in many ways it is a trial run for what many believe he intends as his legacy: A permanent mastaba constructed in the desert in the UAE.
That structure will stand 150 meters tall and be made of 410,000 barrels painted in ten different colors. Even in model size — one built to scale is on display in the Serpentine Gallery as part of the accompanying Christo exhibition — it looks staggeringly colossal, with minuscule model people around it.
Christo is used to his projects progressing slowly. He is also used to not always getting what he wants.
“In 50 years I have completed 23 projects and failed to get permission for 47,” he said.
It took nearly 25 years to get permission to wrap the Reichstag in 1995. But negotiations for the desert mastaba have already been going on since 1977.
Asked if there had been any progress, he said, “I can’t tell you. There are two stages in any project — the software period and the hardware period. We are in the software period. This is the longest time we have spent, but I am a stubborn man. It is an unstoppable urge within me. It energises me.”
The London mastaba cost about £2 million ($2.6 million). As with all his art, Christo paid the costs himself, raising the money by selling preparatory sketches and collages, which are highly sought-after and therefore considered a good investment. He accepts no commissions for his work and seeks no sponsorship.
However, the desert mastaba is likely to cost about $500 million at a conservative estimate, a sum certainly beyond even Christo’s fundraising means.
“It’s not just about building the mastaba. The problem is that there is no infrastructure at the site where he wants to build it, which is about a two-hour drive from Abu Dhabi,” explained Scott Hodes, Christo’s lawyer for 55 years. “You would have to build a road, accommodation for the construction workers and facilities for visitors and tourists. It’s a huge undertaking even for a wealthy country like the UAE.”
Could Christo be persuaded to relocate his structure to somewhere that is at least partly equipped already? “No. It’s in the middle of the desert, in the middle of nowhere but that’s where he wants it,” said Hodes.
There have been many meetings and discussions over the years with the ruling family, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Christo’s nephew, Vladimir Javacheff, who works with him on all his projects, said, “We keep going. I’m there (in the UAE) at least four times a year.”
Christo celebrated his 83rd birthday on June 13. Though still sprightly, there is no denying that time for him to realize his mastaba-in-the-desert dream is not limitless.
But apparently he does not consider his presence to be essential to the project. His nephew explained it will go ahead with or without Christo.
“Even if he passes away, the project will be fulfilled,” said Javacheff. “He doesn’t need to be there.” But, he added hastily: “Christo is not going anywhere. He is indestructible.”


Rebel Wilson loses bid to keep most of $3.4 million defamation payout

Updated 16 November 2018
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Rebel Wilson loses bid to keep most of $3.4 million defamation payout

  • The actress had sued Woman’s Day magazine last year over a series of articles in 2015
  • ‘The whole reason for bringing this case is that I wanted to stand up to a bully, which is Bauer Media’

SYDNEY: Rebel Wilson said she was glad she’d stood up to “a bully” despite losing her bid Friday to keep most of the record payout awarded to her in her defamation case against an Australian magazine.
The actress had sued Woman’s Day magazine last year over a series of articles in 2015 that she said had painted her as someone who’d lied about her real name, age and childhood in order to make it in Hollywood.
The Supreme Court of Victoria state awarded her an Australian-record payout of $3.4 million (A$4.7 million) after a jury concluded she’d missed out on film roles because of the articles. Wilson had sought $5 million in damages.
But this June the amount was reduced by 90 percent after the magazine’s publishers, Bauer Media, appealed. Victoria’s Court of Appeal said Wilson could not prove economic loss, or that she’d missed out on film contracts as a result of the articles. The court ordered the actress to pay back almost $3 million, and 80 percent of Bauer’s legal costs.
Wilson’s lawyers on Friday sought leave to appeal against the reduction in the High Court — Australia’s highest judicial body — but the application was refused.
“In our opinion there are insufficient prospects that an appeal will succeed,” Justice Virginia Bell said at the court in the national capital, Canberra.
The magazine publisher welcomed the decision. “Bauer Media is invested in its Australian business now more than ever,” Bauer chief executive Paul Dykzeul said in a statement. “Our audience trust our content and our writers and they love our iconic brands like Woman’s Day and Australian Women’s Weekly.”
Wilson, who sat in the front row of the public gallery during the brief hearing, said outside the court she was glad the process had been brought to an end.
“This has been a long fight and a long journey in the courts, but the great thing about today is that it brings it to a definitive end,” she told reporters.
“The whole reason for bringing this case is that I wanted to stand up to a bully, which is Bauer Media.”
Wilson said she was proud of herself for “seeing it out right to the bitter end,” and that she was glad the initial jury had “restored my reputation.”
“Today was just about a small point of special damages and for me it was never about the money, it was about standing up to a bully and I’ve done that.”
Wilson is a native Australian best known for her Hollywood roles in the “Pitch Perfect” films and “Bridesmaids.”