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Artist plans world’s biggest sculpture: £212million desert piece will rival the Pyramids (LOOK)

He is best known for wrapping the Reichstag in fabric and lining California highways with yellow umbrellas – but Christo’s latest, almost inconceivable project will dwarf them both.The artist will spend £212m building the ‘Mastaba’, the world’s largest permanent sculpture, from over 400,000 multi-coloured oil barrels in the middle of the desert near Abu Dhabi.

The flat-topped pyramid will be 492ft high, just taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza and three times the height of Nelson’s Column.

Artwork: The proposed 'Mastaba', a 490ft tall sculpture constructed from oil barrels and conceived by Christo to be built in the middle of the Abu Dhabi desert Artwork: The proposed ‘Mastaba’, a 490ft tall sculpture constructed from oil barrels and conceived by Christo to be built in the middle of the Abu Dhabi desert

 

Grand designs: Christo, who is best known for wrapping buildings and bridges in fabric, with a sketch of his latest creationGrand designs: Christo, who is best known for wrapping buildings and bridges in fabric, with a sketch of his latest creation

It is intended to be a landmark for Abu Dhabi – despite being 100 miles from the city itself – in the same way the pyramids are for Egypt and the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, with two million visitors expected annually.

Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude first envisaged the project 30 years ago, after being inspired by the colourful sands of the desert but its completion has been delayed by various conflicts in the region.

The Mastaba chimes with Abu Dhabi’s latest ambition to turn itself into a centre of art and culture.

The emirate’s rulers have approved a site near Liwa oasis, in the south-east of the United Arab Emirates close to the border with Oman.

The region is home to some of the highest sand dunes in the middle-east and the yellow and red colours in the sand have inspired the design.

Christo said: ‘When the sun rises, the vertical wall will become almost full of gold.’

Stack: The Mastaba will be made of 410,000 multi-coloured oil barrels, though Christo insists it is not a commentary on the region's oil wealthStack: The Mastaba will be made of 410,000 multi-coloured oil barrels, though Christo insists it is not a commentary on the region’s oil wealth

 

Long-held dream: The first sketches of the 490ft flat-topped pyramid structure were drawn up 30 years ago, but conflicts in the region have stalled its constructionLong-held dream: The first sketches of the 490ft flat-topped pyramid structure were drawn up 30 years ago, but conflicts in the region have stalled its construction

 

Design on the dunes: Christo during a scale model test at the proposed sight neat the Liwa Oasis, 100 miles from Abu Dhabi city in the south-east of the United Arab EmiratesDesign on the dunes: Christo during a scale model test at the proposed sight neat the Liwa Oasis, 100 miles from Abu Dhabi city in the south-east of the United Arab Emirates

The Bulgarian-born artist, 74, is collaborating with Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al-Nayhan, the crown prince’s elder brother, with the royal family ‘very excited to realise the project.’

Although Christo hasn’t said whether the ruling family have contributed financially towards it, he said it had mainly been financed ‘independently’ and through sales of his work.

He denied that choosing oil barrels to build the structure was a comment on the region’s chief source of wealth and stressed that his idea was not born out of economic or political events, just ‘joy and beauty.’

Location: The Mastaba will be situated here, with the yellow and red colours of the sands said to have inspired Christo in his designLocation: The Mastaba will be situated here, with the yellow and red colours of the sands said to have inspired Christo in his design

 

Plans: The Mastaba is slightly taller than the Great Pyramid of Gaza in Egypt. Christo and the project's backers hope it will attract two million visitors a yearPlans: The Mastaba is slightly taller than the Great Pyramid of Gaza in Egypt. Christo and the project’s backers hope it will attract two million visitors a year

Flat-topped pyramid: Another design sketch as the Mastaba takes shapeFlat-topped pyramid: Another design sketch as the Mastaba takes shapeFlat-topped pyramid: Another design sketch as the Mastaba takes shape

 

Site: The Mastaba will be constructed in the south-east of the country, 100 miles from Abu Dhabi and close to the border with OmanSite: The Mastaba will be constructed in the south-east of the country, 100 miles from Abu Dhabi and close to the border with Oman

It has been inspired by Islamic architecture, with Christo saying: ‘When Louis XIV was building that kitschy castle Versailles, the greatest architecture in the Middle East had incredible simplicity… and play with colours.’

Construction of the Mastaba will take 30 months, with hundreds of people involved. A German company has been commissioned to supply the coloured barrels.

A nearby ‘art campus’ will include an exhibition on the project, as well as housing a luxury hotel and restaurant.

Christo, born Christo Javacheff, is best known for wrapping everyday items including bottles and chairs in sheets or tarpaulin.

Scouting locations: Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, look at possible locations for the sculpture on a visit to the UAE in 2007Scouting locations: Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, who died in 2009, look at possible locations for the sculpture on a visit to the UAE in 2007

 

Long time coming: Christo and Jeanne-Claude scouting for possible sites in February 1982Long time coming: Christo and Jeanne-Claude scouting for possible sites in February 1982

He famously wrapped the Reichstag, the German government building in Berlin, and the Pont-Neuf Bridge in Paris in fabric.

His ‘Umbrellas’ project, between 1984 and 1991, involved setting up 3,000 umbrellas along highways in Japan and the United States.

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