Dezeen Magazine

Christo in front of a sketch for The Mastaba

Reports that Christo and Jeanne-Claude's final project is set to be built "misleading"

The Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation has denied reports that the duo's Mastaba project is set to be realised in the UAE as it still doesn't have government authorisation.

Despite reports in several design publications that Christo and Jeanne-Claude's 150-metre-high prismatic sculpture was set to finally be built, the organisation that manages the artists' estate confirmed to Dezeen that it remains a proposal.

"Over the last weeks, some publications may have had misleading headlines letting some understand that The Mastaba, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's final project, was being built in the Liwa Desert (UAE), which is not the reality," the foundation said.

Christo's scale model of The Mastaba
Christo's model of The Mastaba, which was intended to be built in the UAE desert. Above and top images of Christo are by Wolfgang Volz

"We are still in the planning phase of this project, which would be Christo and Jeanne-Claude's final and permanent work of art to be realised," said a representative for the foundation.

"Like the artists' past projects, The Mastaba will move forward when and if government approval is received. But we are grateful for public enthusiasm for this project and look forward to the possibility of bringing it to life."

The artists conceived of The Mastaba for the United Arab Emirates in 1977, more than 40 years ago. After Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009 and Christo in 2020 the work to realise their vision has continued, as per their wishes.

If built, The Mastaba will become the largest contemporary sculpture in the world, topping the Great Pyramid of Giza in height while being significantly wider.

One of Christo's sketches for The Mastaba, which the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation is still hoping to build. Photo is by André Grossmann

With a name and shape derived from a type of flat-roofed ancient Egyptian tomb, The Mastaba would be made from 410,000 55-gallon steel barrels that form a multicoloured pattern, echoing the mosaics of Islamic architecture.

The proposed location is the Liwa desert, approximately 160 kilometres south of Abu Dhabi, and the project would become the only permanent large-scale public sculpture by the artists, who are best known for temporary installations involving fabric and wrapping.

The project would be entirely self-funded by the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation, but it needs government approval before it can go ahead.

The build would be carried out by Christo's nephew Vladimir Yavachev, who worked with the artists for 30 years and brought to life their L'Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped in 2021.

Diagram showing The Mastaba containing the Great Pyramid of Giza
The Mastaba would be taller and wider than the Great Pyramid of Giza

The Mastaba would be the artists' final artwork, as Christo authorised no further projects beyond these two before his death.

While a recent tweet from the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation hinted at upcoming updates about The Mastaba, the organisation clarified to Dezeen that this referred to exhibitions and other showcase opportunities.

The Colnaghi Gallery presented some of Christo's sketches for The Mastaba during the Abu Dhabi Art fair at the end of 2021, hoping to cultivate interest in the project's realisation.

Black-and-white photograph of Christo and Jeanne-Claude walking over sand dunes in a desert
Christo and Jeanne-Claude searching for a site for The Mastaba in the UAE 1982. Photo is by Wolfgang Volz

The Mastaba was previously brought to life in a mini, floating version in London in 2018. It was the last project Christo completed before his death in 2020, at the age of 84.

He met his wife and creative partner Jeanne-Claude in 1958, and the two went on to produce works such as Wall of Oil Barrels, Wrapped Coast, Valley Curtain and Surrounded Islands. Christo continued to make work under both their names after Jeanne-Claude's death in 2009.

All photography courtesy of the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation.