Qatar Museums and its Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani on 25 October 2022 unveiled large-scale, site-specific artworks by renowned artists Olafur Eliasson, Simone Fattal and Ernesto Neto that were commissioned for the desert outside of Al Zubarah and Ain Mohammed heritage sites in the nation’s northernmost region. The works join more than 100 public artworks that Qatar Museums has installed across the nation’s public spaces, from the Hamad International Airport to the bustling Souq Waqif, in time for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, when 1.5 million visitors are expected to be in Doha. Olafur Eliasson and Ernesto Neto were in attendance for the unveiling of the installations, which took place as part of Qatar Creates, the year-round national cultural movement that curates, promotes and celebrates the diversity of cultural activities in Qatar.
Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, said: “Today is an especially proud moment for Qatar Museums, not only because we have introduced extraordinary, permanent artworks by three of the most admired contemporary artists in the world, but because in doing so we celebrate Qatar's storied heritage sites. Al Zubarah, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has been lovingly preserved to help visitors understand Qatar's national identity and the fascinating story of the pearl trade, while the historic structures of Ain Muhammad village are being consolidated and preserved by the Al Nuaimi family to serve the public today and tomorrow as a place of hospitality and traditional sport. These are just two of the examples of how we honor the physical fabric of our culture. As residents and tourists visit this region of Qatar to experience these new art installations, they will learn about Qatar's natural landscape and history and come away with a better understanding of the diversity of Qatari culture."
Olafur Eliasson’s Shadows travelling on the sea of the day (2022) continues the Icelandic-Danish artist's longstanding exploration into the interplay of human perception and the natural world. The installation comprises twenty mirrored circular shelters, three single rings, and two double rings that are positioned according to the axes of a fivefold symmetrical pattern, with the ten shelters at the centre forming a pentagram, or five-pointed star. The principles behind such patterns were recently discovered by mathematicians in the West, although they may have informed some of the sophisticated designs found in Islamic cultures since medieval times.
For Maqam I, Maqam II, Maqam III (2021) Lebanese artist Simone Fattal has created three monumental sculptures that appear to be geographical landmarks, making them in a blue-coloured granite with a manifold shape that can be perceived as a dune, a construction or a tent. These shapes, both natural and manmade, connect deeply with the archetypes of the landscape and history of Qatar.
Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto’s immersive installation Slug Turtle, TemplEarth (2022), a chant for the Earth, pays homage to the natural environment and creates a space for meditation, reflection and communion between visitors and the spirit of the desert. Slug Turtle, TemplEarth is a structure composed of 8 football goal frames in an octagonal ring, centered on a ceramic earth globe sculpture and surrounded by a vast surface made of white crocheted netting. The work continues the artist’s ongoing inquiry into body space, balance and gravity, informed equally by energy and spirituality.
The installation of these important artworks brings to light the significance of Qatar’s nearby heritage sites, which Qatar Museums is responsible for preserving and protecting. Al Zubarah, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 and is located approximately 100 km northwest of Doha, is the best-preserved example in the Gulf region of an 18th-19th century pearl merchant town. Unlike its contemporaries, it is largely intact and has not been lost beneath the region’s vast modern cities. Ain Mohammad, an abandoned village located 3.5 km north of Al Zubarah, sits directly opposite the new Al Zubarah Visitor Centre and consists of 24 buildings including 2 mosques and a fort. The village has recently been consolidated in an effort to repurpose it as a site for heritage activities and traditional sports, among other programs.
In addition to the installations by Eliasson, Fattal and Neto, the nation’s public spaces are being transformed into a vast outdoor art museum experience with artworks by Jeff Koons, Ugo Rondinone, KAWS, Yayoi Kusama, Katharina Fritsch, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Suki Seokyeong Kang, Shilpa Gupta, Shezad Dawood, Shua’a Ali, Faraj Daham, Shouq Al Mana, Monira Al Qadiri and Salman Al Malek, among other international, regional and Qatari artists. All of these works will be installed before the World Cup begins. Making art a part of everyday life, Qatar became one of the first countries in the Gulf to create a comprehensive contemporary public art programme. Qatar Museums is working with various entities on Qatar’s public art programme including the Hamad International Airport, the Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy, and the Public Works Authority (Ashghal) to install artworks in a variety of both highly trafficked and unexpected public spaces designed to surprise and delight passersby.
Source and cover image credit: Press Release
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