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CULTURE

Notable art pieces in Qatar

Public art installations you just cannot miss 

On the cover: Richard Serra’s
spectacular ‘East-West / West-East’

From the moment you land at the airport in Qatar, you are immersed into the Gulf state’s love for the world of art. For the country, culture is everywhere and this is evident through all the public art projects that can be found in different parts of Qatar. Be it striking sculptures or innovative installations, the peninsula knows how to get the creative conversation started, so get your cameras ready to capture some truly inspiring and iconic pieces.

1.

The Lamp Bear

Located in the centre of the grand Foyer at Hamad International Airport, this yellow teddy bear has become an attraction for travellers before their trip.

Sculpted by Swiss architect Urs Fischer and made from bronze, the Lamp Bear showcases a huge teddy bear sitting peacefully inside a lamp. Although visually it can be seen as a cute photo pit stop before hopping onto your plane, metaphorically the art installation has a more meaningful representation of travelling back to our childhood and revisiting those precious memories every once in a while.

The Lamp Bear is one of many art installations in HIA commissioned by Qatar Museums to transform the airport experience and show that art can be enjoyed anywhere at any time.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:

Urs Fischer is a Swiss-born contemporary visual artist living in New York City whose work includes sculpture, installation and photography

Construction: Between 2005 and 2006 and displayed in Qatar in 2014


2.

The Force of Nature II

Designed by Italian sculptor, Lorenzo Quinn, this sculpture was installed at Katara Cultural Village in 2011.

Inspired by tropical storms, typhoons, and hurricanes, this piece showcases the power of Mother Nature and how unpredictable and destructive it can be.

It also serves a reminder to not take nature for granted with our “false sense of security” towards it.

The sculpture is made out of bronze, aluminium, and stainless steel and it depicts Mother Nature swinging around the planet with force, showcasing its power and prominence.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Lorenzo Quinn is an Italian sculptor and a former actor. His work has been exhibited and displayed across the world

Construction: 2011


3.

Small Lie

One of the latest additions to the HIA collection is this wooden sculpture by well-known American artist KAWS.

The piece, located at the airport’s North node near Concourse E, can be enjoyed by the 30 million passengers who transit annually.

Standing at 32-feet-tall, the sculpture is made out of Afrormosia wood and is reminiscent of a wooden marionette. The reason for choosing this material and size comes from KAWS’s relationship with wooden toys as a child. The artist hopes to invoke the mixed emotion of feeling small but yet wanting to console the wooden structure.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
KAWS, whose real name is Brian Donnelly, is an American artist and designer who uses figurative characters and motifs in his work

CONSTRUCTION: Installed in Qatar in 2018

4.

The Flying Man

In HIA’s passenger terminal there are two iconic structures by Iraqi artist Dia Al-Azzawi, inspired by the historical figure in the Muslim world who experimented with flights, known as Abu Firnas.

The cylinders are inspired by the pillars found in Mesopotamia in the third century B.C. Overall, this eye-catching structure was made to celebrate how far humanity has come in the aviation field.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Dia Al-Azzawi is an Iraqi painter and sculpture artist living in London who is known for incorporating Arabic scripts into his work

CONSTRUCTION: 2016

5.

Pouce (Thumb)

This art installation is placed in Souq Waqif and was made by the French sculptor César Baldaccini. He played an important role in the 1960’s Nouveau Réalisme art movement, which uses everyday objects to create art rather than traditional materials.

This simple artwork was positioned in Souq Waqif as a modern piece in a traditional environment. The polished bronze sculpture at night complements the lights in Souq Waqif and becomes recognisable to the people as a place to meet. Tourists will also enjoy this piece as they visit Souq Waqif which showcases Qatar’s identity and diverse spaces.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: César Baldaccini was a French sculpture whose work on human imprints is now displayed across the world

Construction: 1965


6.

Folded Extracted Personified

This interactive installation was commissioned by Qatar Museums for the opening of the National Museum of Qatar.

The installation has multiple “head-in-the-hole” panels, and each panel represents an artefact from the new museum and the Museum of Islamic Arts.

Liam Gillick is the artist behind these sculptures and has included a barcode on each one for people to see the original art piece. Located conveniently at MIA park, people can gather and enjoy leisurely activities while engaging with the sculptures.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Liam Gillick is an English artist based in New York City. His work includes a variety of sculptures, installations, public projects and texts

Construction: 2019


7.

‘7’

A structure with significance to Islamic culture stands facing the sea at MIA Park. On the recommendation of IM Pei, the architect of the Museum of Islamic Art, Richard Serra was brought in to create a new space to the public through his design while maintaining the aesthetic.

Serra achieved this through creating a structure made out of seven steel plates. The number 7 has a spiritual significance in Islam and with the placement of the structure adjacent to a museum about Islamic art, it was a perfect fit.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Richard Serra is an American artist involved in the Process Art Movement

Construction: 2011


8.

The Miraculous Journey

By one of the most controversial British artists, Damien Hirst, this installation celebrates the process of human life and is conveniently positioned in front of the Sidra Medical Centre for women and children.

The 14 sculptures, made of bronze, represent the process of a growing fetus until its birth, with the final structure being an anatomically correct 46-foot-tall baby boy.

It was a daring design to bring to Qatar in 2013, but definitely one that will continue to stimulate debates for years.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Damien Hirst is a controversial British artist, entrepreneur and art collector. He was part of the Young British Artists in the 90s who dominated the UK art scene before he went solo

Construction: 2005-2013


9.

East-West / West-East

Placed in the Brouq Nature Reserve, four steel plates stand over 14 metres in height.

Choosing the placement required the American artist, Richard Serra, to look at the topography of the land.

Serra ended up creating an identifiable place in the reserve that people can interact with in their own way, some may drive up to it or walk to it. It was the first time that Serra worked on a piece for a desert.

The placement was suggested to him by Her Highness Sheikha al-Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The steel used for this project is the same that Serra is used to, and given its nature, the steel will change colour over time from grey, orange, brown to a dark amber.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Richard Serra’s work can be found in many international public and private collections

Construction: 2014


10.

The Challenge

These sculptures were part of a collection of installations that were commissioned to celebrate the 24th Men’s Handball World Championships in Qatar in 2015.

Iraqi artist Ahmed Al Bahrani designed the bronze sculpture of five hands reaching out towards the ball but also towards the sky.

It has been located outside the Lusail Multipurpose Hall which immediately captures the attention of visitors walking around. What is also impressive about this piece is that it was completed within the short time span of five months.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Ahmed Al Bahrani is one of the most well-known Iraqi sculptors today. He left Iraq for political reasons in 1994 and uses his work to reflect the feeling of being estranged from his geographical foundation and roots

Construction: 2015


11.

Maman

Located in Qatar’s National Convention Centre, this sculpture stands out to the visitors due to the intimidating nature of the spider portrayed.

However, this is a beautiful and personal piece by the artist Louise Bourgeois that is dedicated to her mother. The sculpture depicts a mother protecting her eggs (or children).

The reason for choosing a spider is because her mother used to work as a tapestry at her father’s textile shop. “Like a spider, my mother was a weaver. Spiders are friendly presences that are helpful and protective, just like my mother,” said Bourgeois.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
French-American artist Louise Bourgeois is known for her large-scale artwork and installations. The topics discussed in her pieces are family, sexuality, the body, death and the unconscious mind

CONSTRUCTION: 1999, installed in Qatar in 2012


12.

Smoke

Tony Smith’s captivating sculpture is stationed at the entrance of the new Doha Exhibition & Convention Centre (DECC) in West Bay.

Although this was specifically designed to fit into an interior space, the sculpture is placed outside the building for passers-by to see. Smith’s work stemmed from his fascination with geometric shapes and the morphing of organic shapes. This can be seen in Smoke which stands at 24-feet.

Smoke was originally designed in 1967 and made of plywood. It gained a lot of attention at the time that it was placed on the cover of TIME Magazine in the same year.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Tony Smith was an American sculptor, visual artist and architectural designer. He made more than 50 large-scale sculptures in the final two decades of his life

Construction: 1967


13.

Gandhi’s Three Monkeys

Made of cooking instruments, used pails, traditional Indian lunch boxes and glass bowels, these structures reference Gandhi’s famous monkey metaphor, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

This use of materials is common for artist Subodh Gupta, who frequently uses recognisable items from his Indian culture in his work.

The sculptures are of three heads wearing different military gear, one is wearing a soldier helmet, another a gas mask and the third a terrorist hood.

ABOUT THE ARTIST:
Subodh Gupta is an Indian contemporary artist. His work contains installations, sculptures, painting, photography, performance and video

Construction: 2008



Temporary Public Art

“A Blessing in Disguise”

This is a temporary public artwork by Qatari ARToonist Ghada Al Khater. The neon sign is placed on the Fire Station’s façade for anyone passing by to see. Written in Arabic, the saying is from a significant speech given by His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani in 2017.

This was when he addressed the citizens for the first time since the start of the blockade. The meaning behind it represents that there is always a silver lining to any situation.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Ghada Al Khater is a Qatari ARToonist who received a fine arts degree in Graphic Design from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar in 2012

Construction: 2018

“Everything is Going to be Alright”

A fitting and complementary temporary piece is this installation by British artist Martin Creed. It was re-created for the anniversary of the Qatar blockade and placed on the outside of Al Riwaq Gallery.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Martin Creed is a British artist, composer and performer. Through experimentation with mediums, he has made installations, films, paintings, theatre, and live-action sculptures

Construction: 2009