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    PHOTOS: Sheikha Al Mayassa unveils new towering sculptures in desert

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    All photos copyright Sally Crane

    A new permanent art installation consisting of four steel plates that are about 15m (49 feet) tall has been unveiled in Qatar’s desert.

    The artwork, created for Qatar by renowned American artist Richard Serra’s, is called “East-West/West-East,” and is located some 60km outside of Doha at the Brouq Nature Reserve near Zekreet.

    The massive plates span 1km of the area, and “is set in a natural corridor formed by gypsum plateaus,” the Qatar Museums Authority said in a statement. Chairperson Sheikha Al Mayassa unveiled the artwork during a press event on Tuesday afternoon.

    Serra was quoted as saying the area “has sea in the East and sea in the West. The pieces connect the two seas and the two parts of this ancient landscape.” He added:

    “The placement (of the pieces) is not geometrical, it’s topological; they can only be placed where they are to achieve the curvature of the land. If one walks through the pieces; he will understand not only the rhythm of himself in relationship to the landscape but also the rhythm of himself in relationship to the height and the length of the pieces.”

    The new installation follows in the footsteps of Serra’s other works, which tend to revolve around the concepts of space, weight, mass and gravity, and are comprised of steel, his material of choice.

    The artist is known for constructing enormous site-specific installations, including 7, a 24m (80-foot) high sculpture composed of seven steel sheets, which was erected at the MIA Park in 2011.

    Impact

    “East-West/West-East” is a departure from some of the other pieces that the QMA has recently commissioned, including a series of giant babies (Damien Hirst‘s “Miraculous journey” outside of the Sidra Medical and Research Center) and a statue of head-butting athletes (Adel Abdessemed’s “Coup de Tête”).

    But it is no less dramatic. Some Qatar residents who stumbled upon the artwork before its official unveiling last week said the pieces left quite an impression.

    To see “East-West/West-East” for yourself, photographer Sally Crane give these directions:

    “Finding the site isn’t too difficult as the sculptures are very tall! You do need a 4×4 though as it’s pretty rough terrain. Leave the Dukhan Highway at the junction for Khawzan and turn to the left on the road following along the line of the highway until you reach an underpass.

    At this point you will be going off road. Follow the track round and up the peninsula towards Film City. The sculptures are on your left hand side between a gap in the plateaus.”

    More of Serra’s works will go on display later today, as the artist opens his first regional solo show at Al Riwaq Exhibition Hall near the Museum of Islamic Art.

    Speaking at that opening, he explained to Doha News his process for deciding on where to install his new artwork:

    “I am very grateful to the Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad, who walked around the area with me. He told me that when he was a little boy, his uncles would bring him out there – it was where the antelope gathered. He was very very nostalgic for that. So he recognized that the place had a specific aura. It moved me that he was moved by it.”

    Serra’s art will also be exhibited at the QMA gallery at Katara Cultural Village. The displays will be up through July 6, 2014.

    Thoughts?

    Shabina S. Khatri
    Shabina S. Khatri is the editor of Doha News. She holds dual bachelor's degrees in Business Administration and Spanish from the University of Michigan, a Masters of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University, has previously taught at NU-Q, and worked for the Wall Street Journal and the Detroit Free Press.

    49 COMMENTS

    1. 1) Obtain large, disused building materials
      2) Stick them randomly in a field (preferably one belonging to a wealthy country)
      3) Come up with a deep, ambiguous, catchy title–East/West, North/South, Happiness/Sadness, Diasporas/gatherings, etc. etc.

      Considering how much the artist was paid to put up the hunks of metal, I really need to switch my profession to modern artist . . .

    2. Well done for everyone involved. Every now and then, Qatar surprises you with incredible events that are just so unexpected. Totally wowed!

      And, to the cynics, well, for every piece of modern art or an installation ever, there were smart-asses commenting “my kid can do this” or “This is bullshit”. We get it, you don’t get it. Move away.

      • Since you get it, can you please let us know what this “East-West/ West-East” represents? I can’t for the life of me, figure out the metaphysics at work in this piece of “Art”.

      • ^^^
        just smashed his head on the keyboard…. if you get it and the rest of the world don’t get it.. then why not put in a place where only people who get it get to see it and people who don’t get it are saved from having to bare with.. and yeah their money wasted on it.

        • You mean, like, in the desert? And also, exactly how much of your money did they spend on this installation?

      • We get it, you don’t … That is such a sanctimonious comment. It does nothing to enlighten people. On the contrary it embeds the notion that modern art is nothing more than a great big con. A modern day emperors new clothes.
        By adopting this supercilious attitude you hope to bully people into silence in case they are seen as dumb for not ‘getting it’ .

        I have no problem with the structures. I do enjoy some installation art pieces for what they are and not what they were paid for. But there is also a lot of rubbish in the current art world being expounded and supported by people who are afraid to admit they don’t ‘get it’ in case it goes viral.
        If you appreciate these pieces and understand them then please enlighten us poor clods who sit in the dark caves of the non arty world. Far better it would have been if you had tried to explain the pieces as you see them and draw us in rather than alienate us and then ridicule us for not understanding.

    3. It’s a good idea and breaks up the boring monotony of the desert. However rather than paying this man ridicoulous amounts of millions of dollars why not get one of the students in Qatar to come up with such an idea? Cheap and gives the student exposure.

    4. What I see in the pictures I like, so I imagine it would be more inspiring up close. I’m not able to look at art like this and understand it. All I know is that it makes me feel good to be in it’s presence.

      • Now it makes sense why the Deset Tour group is so worried about the Desert Safari’s.. Can you imagine the LC with their flashing lights trying to pass these obsticles on their desert treks..I can imagine the banshee’s will be weaving in and out of these racing…would the sound just be “Doink”..lol….the radiant heat these will put out in the summer will be crazy…toss an egg, see if it will cook before it hits the sand…

    5. I have to disagree with the majority of the commentators here. I visit Zekreet often. The Brouq nature reserve is one of Qatar’s most beautiful regions. The strange limestone and gypsum formations such as the ‘mushroom rock’ give the place a haunting ambiance. The area is a favoured spot for stargazers during the Perseid and Geminid meteor showers and hosts some breath-taking sunsets. I find the minimalism, symmetry and towering size of the sculptures strangely compatible with the austerity and enigma of the empty desert landscape. I’m no art expert and don’t understand most modern art, but this piece seemed strangely appropriate to its surroundings.

      • Well said…it is becoming the second biggest fraud perpetuated on man kind behind McDonalds claiming to be food…

    6. “he will understand not only the rhythm of himself in relationship to the landscape but also the rhythm of himself….”

      Oh yeah, I’m getting to grips with my rhythm right now. He sounds like he’s a rhythmic gripper, too.

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