In an apparently abrupt change of plan, the Qatar Museums Authority has decided to move Adel Abdessemed’s five-meter high “Coup de Tête” sculpture from the Corniche to a new home.
The name of the controversial sculpture – which is going to Mathaf, the Museum of Modern Arab Art near Education City – means “head butt” in English, and captures the moment when French football player Zinedine Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup.
Previously, the QMA said that the statue, which was bought for an undisclosed sum, would be a permanent installation on the Corniche.
But today, QMA Chief Marketing Officer Kimberly French told Doha News:
“Coup de Tete will join (Abdessemed)’s solo show currently on display at Mathaf until January 5. I think that there has been a decision to join the pieces together.
I don’t know if that was a change of heart, but when we first put it in we thought they should be separate, but now we want to join it together with the rest of Adel’s work.”
In a statement, QMA added:
“QMA first unveiled the sculpture on the Corniche as part of the launch programme for the October exhibitions. Coup de Tete will form part of Doha’s Public Art landscape and its permanent home will be confirmed shortly.”
It is possible that the statue may remain on permanent display outside Mathaf, French added.
Reaction to the removal of the statue on Twitter has been divided:
Zedan’s Statue is being removed now. I’m really impressed. It had nothing to do with our past\present\future.
— Noor Al-Tamimi (@NoorK_) October 28, 2013
— Yousef Ak. (@CestYousef) October 28, 2013
@NoorK_ it definitely was relevant to football, a sport loved in this country! Bs as for the culture, no relevance whatsoever
— Khalid Abdullah (@Kay9Leon) October 28, 2013
The controversial work – which critics have labeled “unsportsmanlike” and offensive to religious sensibilities – was unveiled earlier this month as part of a flurry of new art installations across town, including Damien Hirst’s specially-commissioned work for the under-construction Sidra Medical and Research Center, “The Miraculous Journey,” a group of 14 huge bronze sculptures, showing different stages from conception to birth.
This work is not currently on view, however. After a high-profile unveiling during Hirst’s recent visit to Doha to launch his new show, Relics, the covers were pulled back over the statues due to ongoing construction at the site, according to QMA.
Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed‘s current exhibition at Mathaf, L’âge d’or, is also proving controversial. Printemps, a video depicting several chickens screaming while appearing to be on fire, has been labeled as offensive by some residents, who have begun a petition to ask for the cancellation of the show, and the sacking of QMA’s and Mathaf’s directors.
“We, Qataris and residents of Qatar, are outraged and shocked at the fact that our modern art museum, the until now respected Mathaf, promotes these violent and tasteless works that have nothing to do with real art and creativity,” the text on the petition reads.
When asked about the petition, which has garnered about 500 signatures, the QMA told Doha News that aside from Printemps, “the petition is judging him based on previous works and exhibitions in San Francisco, Paris and Italy.”
Two further Abdessemed works are due to be unveiled shortly, according to the Mathaf website. That includes Mappemonde, a sculpture consisting of large-scale world maps sculpted entirely from discarded tin cans, which will be installed at Hamad International Airport when it opens early next year.