The Abu Dhabi Festival has posthumously honoured Christo with its prestigious eponymous award in Paris this weekend.
Christo’s team has just unveiled – or rather, veiled – his last major work: the wrapping of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, in which the famous landmark is covered in 25,000 square metres of shimmering silvery-blue fabric. The artwork was 60 years in the making.
“Each time Christo realised a new project, he redefined what the world thought of as public art,” said Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (Admaf).
Alkhamis-Kanoo bestowed the Abu Dhabi Festival Award to Christo’s nephew, Vladimir Yavachev, in Paris on the artist's behalf.
“He will forever be remembered for his amazing creative work, but also for his support of young people and for encouraging them to develop their creativity," she said. "The Abu Dhabi Festival Award recognises Christo’s invaluable contributions to visual art and the extraordinary legacy he leaves behind.”
Christo, who died in 2020, had a long-standing relationship with both the UAE and Admaf, which runs the Abu Dhabi Festival. They have collaborated since 2012 on the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, presented in affiliation with NYU Abu Dhabi, to support young artists in the Emirates.
The installation The Mastaba is made of 410,000 stacked barrels that he hoped to erect in the Abu Dhabi desert. Christo and Jeanne-Claude began planning this work in 1977 and up until his death, Christo continued to call it an ongoing project. Jeanne-Claude, Christo's wife and collaborator, died in 2009.
In July, Yavachev, the project director for both the Paris and Liwa initiatives, told The National he believes the sculpture could become reality in between five and 10 years.
“My uncle used to talk about the software and hardware stages of a project,” Yavachev said. “Software was when it was in the hearts and minds of the team, hardware was as we moved on and started physically building.
“So The Mastaba is still at the software point. But we have done all the engineering, we have the location and we are ready to go.”
Christo and Jeanne-Claude were born on the same date, June 13, 1935, in Bulgaria and Morocco, respectively. Together they created a number of large-scale international projects, including the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris (1985), the wrapping of the Berlin Reichstag (1995), and the billowy orange Gates (2005) in Central Park, New York.
The Abu Dhabi Festival Award is presented with the jewellery house Chopard.