The most recent monumental work of the Bulgarian artist in the green heart of London is a chance to visit this temple to freedom of expression, a symbol of English democracy.
“There are no messages, there is something you need to find out for yourself. I cannot give you directions, you have to develop your senses “. Christo, the Bulgarian artist whose name is synonymous with Landscape Art for many, has launched his most recent challenge at Hyde Park. Since June 19th, his “Mastaba” has been on show in The Serpentine Lake, in the mythical London park. The name (and the form) was borrowed from the earliest Egyptian funerary sites, those of the ancient kingdom, bearing four thousand and five hundred years of history: in all respects the ancestors of the pyramids.
“An enormous invitation, like a ladder to the sky”, to always use the words of its creator, who specifies how the steps are “barrels of 60 centimetres in diameter”, as if behind this choice there was a hermetic secret, a number with Pythagorean meanings that are difficult to decipher.
Christo’s latest creation, enigmas aside, is still a true joy for the eyes – a geometric shape that is reflected in the water, dyed with pastel colours, offering shades of pink and violet. Once again, his work is a mixture of nature and artifice. This work is along the same lines as his renowned “Floating Piers”, those walkways that allowed – for the entire summer of 2016 – visitors to Lake Iseo to “walk on the water”. Rarely have we seen modern conceptual art so appreciated by the general public: the estimated number of visitors exceeded one million. The secret is perhaps found in Christo’s imprint: that of creating a relationship between the environment to its creativity.
Born in Bulgaria on June 13th, 1935 (same day as his partner Jeanne Claude Denat de Guillebone, who died in 2009), Christo (at registry office his complete name is Vladimirov Yavachev) gave up his name and patronymic, in order to declare himself stateless. In the early years of his life he devoted himself to abstract art, above all through painting. Then the intuition that drove him to “wrap” objects in common use, from beer cans to cars. The next step, after joining the movement of the “Noveau Réalisme“, the new realism, artistic movement founded by Pierre Restany, was to incorporate his visions into a landscape, focusing on large-scale installations. This led to his “wrapping” or “packing”, in soft sheets, of monuments like the Porta Pinciana in Rome and the Pont Neuf on the Seine.
For the most recent “museum” for his work, Christo found the historic park in London. Ending up in the hands of the English royals with Henry VIII after the suppression of ecclesiastical privileges, Hyde Park was initially a royal hunting reserve populated by deer. In 1637, Charles I made it public in all respects. It is one of the largest green areas in the British capital, and the place par excellence of English democracy.
Since the second half of the nineteenth century, in fact, it has been the temple of freedom of speech, a free zone where anyone could “preach” what he wanted, without fear of retaliation by the police. Christo’s Mastaba is located on The Serpentine Lake, the natural boundary with the Kensington gardens. In popular culture, this place is closely linked to Peter Pan: the creator of the boy who did not want to grow up, James Matthew Barrie, set the scene of Peter’s escape in this park, when as only a newborn he ran away from home. A swimming competition in the waters of the Serpentine Lake is dedicated to Peter Pan, an event held every Christmas with temperatures that are often far from warm.