Christo & Jeanne-Claude: The Mastaba Project

Christo and Jeanne-Claude

The Mastaba, a project for Abu Dhabi, will be the largest sculpture in the world, made from 410,000 multi-colored barrels to form a mosaic of bright sparkling colors, echoing Islamic architecture. The Mastaba is an ancient and familiar shape to the people of the region. The Mastaba will be 492 feet high, 738 feet deep at the 60 degree slanted walls and 984 feet wide at the vertical walls. The top of The Mastaba will be a horizontal surface 416 feet wide and 738 feet deep. (Note that an American football field is 360 feet long x 160 feet wide!)  The colors and the positioning of the 55-gallon steel barrels were selected by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in 1979, the year in which the artists visited the Emirate for the first time. The Mastaba will be Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s only permanent large-scale work.”

Excerpts from Barbara Rose’s interview with Christo in the Interview Magazine:

CHRISTO: The Mastaba will be the most expensive because it will be the biggest sculpture in the world. It’s bigger than the Pyramid of Cheops. It is two avenue blocks by three city blocks and 500 feet tall. But you need to image what it will look like in the desert, with slanted walls, like the pyramids, so you can only see the one side when you look at it. It will be like the biggest stairway to heaven—a 500-foot-tall stairway.

CHRISTO: It will be the most expensive sculpture in the world. It costs maybe $350 million. We pay for it all ourselves. This is why we’re totally independent. I don’t ever do commissions. All projects are initiated by me. Curiously enough, it costs exactly the same amount as if we built the Eiffel Tower today.

CHRISTO: Mastaba is the old name of the mud bench found at the first urban place we know in the world—in Mesopotamia. In the front of the early houses, people built mud benches to sit. There were two vertical walls, a trunk top, and slanted walls. That geometric form is called mastaba. Even today, in the area of Abu Dhabi, they still call that bench a mastaba.  The Mastaba will be there in the desert for people from all over the world to make pilgrimages to.

CHRISTO: We need 30 months to build the project, if everything goes well, meaning after all the engineering is done, after finishing all the logistics—it’s a huge logistic thing. This is why we cannot tell you when it will be happening, but we need 30 months to do it.

Read full interview here.

See more Mastaba images at


  1. I always love the Christo protects. Thanks for pointing tis out. I have seen Running Fence and The Gates. I will hopefully see this one completed in photos.


  2. Christo is such a fascinating man – and this next project will certainly add to the cache of Abu Dhabi!


  3. this will be awe-inspiring.


  4. Have always admired Christo’s belief in himself. He conceives it, he bankrolls it. Amazing vision the guy has. This will be magnificent!


  5. He has certainly made his mark on the world.


  6. An impressive idea, but I have to say, I find it a little oppressive to look at. Maybe in real life it would look more attractive. It’s making me think of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias!! 😉


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