Christo and Jeanne-Claude perfected the art of gift-wrapping. They wrapped many large things including monuments, trees, cliffs and famously the Reichstag, the German parliament building in Berlin. Wrapping is a skill that has always eluded me. My wife takes great care with wrapping presents and no doubt it was Mrs Christo (Jeanne-Claude) that actually did the wrapping. Like me, Christo was probably relegated to pre-cutting the bits of sellotape and hanging them off the back of a dining chair so they don’t get all stuck together.

My theory is somewhat proved by the fact that, since the unfortunate death of Jeanne-Claude in 2009, Mr Christo seems to have stopped wrapping objects and he is now building things out of barrels. His latest is the Masataba that is floating on the Serpentine Lake in London’s Hyde Park. Although the effect is something like a giant multi-coloured Lego construction I’m guessing it was a bit of a trickier proposition, with their being no nipples/sockets to hold the barrels together. Perhaps he used his sellotaping experience.

London’s Mastaba is a temporary piece, like most of their work, so if you are reading this after September 23rd 2018 then you missed it. Unless it has been sold to wealthy client, but that is unlikely. The piece stands 78 metres high and has a footprint of 1200 square metres. So that is too big to fit in even Bill Gates’ swimming pool, just.

reichstag berlin
The Reichstag on Boxing Day, recipient now playing with packaging.

Apparently ‘Christo and Jeanne-Claude’ (their art is still produced under their joint names) don’t sell anything. Having spent some years getting permission from the bureaucratic German government to wrap the Reichstag they’d probably have been pushing their luck if they’d then flogged it to Charles Saatchi. If I was them, I’d have built a bogus Reichstag out of empty cardboard boxes, wrapped it and then sold it with the proviso that whoever bought it promised not to peek before Christmas morning.

They (I’ll play along for now) make their money out of selling preparatory drawings, photographs and signed empty sellotape reels.

The Mastaba in Hyde Park is a prelude to a much bigger project they’ve been working on since 1977. This is a permanent and much bigger, Mastaba that he (I’ve given up on it now) wants to build in Abu Dhabi.

The height of this thing will be 150 metres, which is six times the height of the practice piece he’s fobbed London off with. The Abu Dhabi Mastaba will in fact be 11 metres higher than the Great Pyramid.  Now, call me an old cynic, but both pyramids and mastabas were monumental burial tombs and Christo ain’t getting any younger. He was born in 1935 and the clock is ticking. The Great Pyramid of Cheops has been around since Adam was a lad (if not longer) and we still marvel at it, and we remember the name of its occupant too. You can see where I’m going with this.

So, if the Abu Dhabi Mastaba ever does get built and the assembled dignitaries at the topping-out ceremony are tapping their watches and wondering where the artist is, remember my words.