The world’s largest permanent artwork could soon be built in the UAE desert

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s final artwork will be made up of 410,000 colourful barrels

Sophie Dickinson
Written by
Sophie Dickinson
Freelance contributor

The artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude were known for creating some pretty dramatic sculptures in their lifetimes. The husband-and-wife team wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in fabric in 1995, and installed thousands of flapping panels in Central Park in New York a decade later. Last year, their posthumous L’Arc De Triomphe, Wrapped – which saw the structure covered in thousands of ribbons – caused a sensation in Paris

Christo died in May 2020 and his wife Jeanne-Claude in 2009, but they left detailed plans for future artworks. And this final project is going to be the world’s biggest-ever sculpture. Not at all ambitious, then. 

The Mastaba is going to be built around 100 miles south of Abu Dhabi, in the UAE’s Liwa desert. Built out of 410,000 multi-coloured barrels, the structure will be 150 metres high, 300 metres wide and 225 metres deep.

The Mastaba Abu Dhabi Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Photograph: Wolfgang Volz - 2012 Christo and Jeanne-Claude Foundation

The pair first came up with the idea in 1979 after a visit to the UAE. Despite creating art for all of their adult lives, this piece will be their only permanent structure. The giant trapezoid will reference traditional Islamic architecture, along with several of their previous works.

The Mastaba still requires government approval, which means building can’t start just yet. Once that’s granted, though, it’s thought the construction period will take approximately three years. That means the project could open as early as 2027 – a mere 50 years after it was first conceived.

More cool plans:

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