Qatar's art scene is truly something to marvel at. From world-class exhibitions to renowned artists exhibiting their works, along with an impressive public art scene, the country has put in a lot of effort to make Qatar a world leader in the art sector. One such must-visit exhibition currently is Olafur Eliasson: The Curious Desert exhibition.
Light, colour, geometric studies and ecological awareness are all part of the new exhibit by acclaimed Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. This is truly a one-of-a-kind exhibition with outdoor and indoor artworks, along with a research map of the artist's studies. This is the artist's first solo exhibition in the Gulf.
The artist says:
The curious desert asks how we use vision and movement to make sense of our worlds; to make invisible phenomena visible and palpable; and to collect knowledge, engage in critical reflection, and construct worlds based on the stories that we live each day.
The ILoveQatar.net (ILQ) team has put together a guide on what you can expect at this stunning exhibition and more! Check it out!
The indoor gallery exhibition is located inside the National Museum of Qatar and has many works spanning different periods of the artist's career. The artworks use various media types like geometric models, light installations, optical devices, a photo series from Iceland, watercolours and Olafur's research ideas. The works use vision and movement to make us think.
This exhibition contains flashing lights that may cause discomfort to those with sensitivity to light.
Here are some of the works you must check out in the gallery.
The first artwork you see as you enter the indoor gallery is Your sooner than later, 2020. Placed in a dark room, the artwork constantly changes its shape, colours, shadows and light.
The next room leads you to walls filled with photos of the artist's visit to Iceland over the years to explore the country's cultural and natural landscape. It consists of photos of glaciers, waterfalls, rivers, volcanoes, caves, etc. The photos exhibited in this room were selected by Olafur with the landscape of Qatar in mind.
In the artist's words:
Although they could not be more different, the sandy landscape of Qatar and the lava fields of Iceland are, in a certain sense, connected. They both experience extreme temperatures; they are both deserts. They are both fragile and vulnerable landscapes.
In this room, you can spot The glacier melt series 1999/2019, 2019. 30 C-prints; The inner cave series, 1998. 36 C-prints; Adrift compass, 2019.
The sculptural works of Olafur Eliasson are exhibited in this room, and the shapes and figures are derived from the team's research at Studio Olafur Eliasson in Germany. The artist's connection with geometric studies stems from the desire to find alternatives to modern architecture, art, and design. He also plays with light in many of his creations. One such must-see artwork is Algae window, 2020, which is a composition of glass spheres of various sizes. It resembles single-celled algae called diatoms. This inspired many of the artist's studies too.
In Room 3, you can find, The complete sphere lamp, 2015; The presence of absence, 2016; Faint memory map, 2022; Faint expectation map, 2022; Solar empowerment spiral, 2016; Algae window, 2020
This room is also an excellent place for some Instagrammable photos and videos. Unleash your creativity here!
This room has an almost interactive installation called The living lighthouse, 2023. This 360-degree artwork contains panes of coloured glass, filters, and constantly moving shutters. The colourful shadows move along the walls, and you can see your silhouette on the walls as you move around the room.
Artworks called Object defined by activity (now), Object defined by activity (soon), and Object defined by activity (then) are placed in this room and consist of lamps placed above a column that illuminate jets of water in rhythmic bursts of light. This produces the illusion of the sculptures fleeting in mid-air.
This exhibit contains flashing lights that may cause discomfort to those with sensitivity to light.
This room has artworks called the Drawings from outdoor pavilions, 2022 which were created by machines at the outdoor gallery at Al Thakhira Mangrove Forest.
Solar energy and lenses were used to create burn marks on rotating sheets of paper, while saltwater and pigments were used to create the other artworks using pendulums driven by wind.
The outdoor artworks are located at Al Thakhira Mangroves in northern Qatar. Click here for the exact location.
The outdoor exhibition consists of 12 temporary pavilions that form an experimental laboratory in the desert. Each artwork uses mirrors, spheres, reflections and solar energy that bends the light in different ways depending on the time of the day. Here are the artworks to check out.
The top of Your sun compass consists of triangular wicker panels that are hung from above to form a star with sixteen rays. A parabolic mirror is also hung at the centre of the compass that reflects the shadow of the whole artwork. The colours reflect on you as you stand below the glass mirrors.
This artwork is powered by the sun and consists of two rows of glass spheres that act as lenses. There is a sheet of rotating fireproof paper placed below and as the sunlight gets intense and depending on the position of the sun, it creates burn marks on it. Upon completion, the drawings are moved to the National Museum of Qatar for display at the indoor gallery of this exhibition.
The mechanism for this artwork is similar to the Solar-drawing observatory (Large spheres) one and the sizes of the spheres represent certain days of the year and thus the resulting drawings will be different every day. Upon completion, the drawings too, are moved to the National Museum of Qatar for display at the indoor gallery of this exhibition.
This artwork consists of two circular canvases, one white and one black, that are turned using motors. Water mixed with black and white pigments respectively drips down the drawing instrument on the canvases, leaving marks on them. You can find these at the National Museum of Qatar too.
Consisting of a canopy formed by intersecting colourful discs with reflective glass, this artwork will instantly capture your attention. As light falls on it, the shadow reflects, forming different colours projected on the ground. This work is reflective of the artist's interest in colour theory.
5 mirrors are placed to form a pentagon to produce a tunnel-like reflective space. Stand within the centre of the artwork and see the reflection and hues from the surrounding colourful curtains.
This artwork is an optical device. 11 prisms are arranged on a spherical structure according to the part of the sun at the region (Al Thakira). The arc's intensity changes as the time, day and weather change.
Arcs made of ropes are hung down from a reflective disc at the center of the pavilion. Saltwater is pumped into the basin above the mirror that seeps into the cotton fibers and when evaporates leaves a crust of salt on the ropes.
The center of the artwork is filled with a layer of rock dust collected over centuries via the movement of glaciers. This stands in contrast to the arid desert sand around the pavilion.
Glass spheres are placed in a haphazard circular fashion that reflects light in different ways from the angle you look at them.
The black, shiny obsidian (a volcanic glass) stands out in contrast to the sandy ground and looks as just erupted from the desert ground. This pavilion was inspired by Eliasson’s hikes through the obsidian fields of Hrafntinnusker, in the Icelandic highlands.
This artwork represents the tar residue that lay on a beach in Qatar as a result of oil spill, both naturally occurring and human-caused. The tar was brought to the location and arranged in a circle.
You can either drive to the area on your own (it is sedan friendly) or take the free shuttle bus from the National Museum of Qatar offered once a week.
The bus will depart from the museum on Saturdays at 9 am and return to the same place around noon. Bus capacity is limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you're visiting the outdoor exhibition, please make sure not to touch the exhibits, do not litter and pick up after your waste. Let's keep Qatar clean.
This is an artwork in progress. What was once a pin-board of ideas is now a 35-meters multi-year research team work from the artist's studio. You can view and slowly go through this incredible body of work at the National Museum of Qatar right before entering the indoor gallery.
Have you visited this mind-boggling exhibition yet? What were some of your takeaways? Do let us know in the comments below. Do share this article - it keeps us going!
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