PHOTOS: Qatar reaches for sky with new statues outside handball venue

Photos by Navin Sam and Qatar Museums

To mark the upcoming 24th Men’s Handball World Championships in Doha, the public art department at Qatar Museums has installed several new attention-getting sculptures outside one of the main match venues.

The pieces were created by Iraqi artist Ahmad Al Bahrani and depict larger-than-life hands, reaching for the sky.

Artist Ahmad Al Bahrani

Navin Sam

Artist Ahmad Al Bahrani

They are situated outside of the Lusail Multipurpose Hall, which will host the opening ceremony and the first match between Qatar and Brazil when the tournament kicks off on Thursday, Jan. 15.

Some two dozen teams will compete in the championships, which are taking place for the first time in the Gulf and only the second time in the Middle East. The tournament runs through Feb 1.

Both Qatar Museums and handball officials did not respond to repeated questions for comment about the new artworks. In a statement, QM said the work is called “The Challenge 2015,” and was produced in just five months.

According to the artist’s website, Al Bahrani splits his time living and working here and in Sweden.

He is internationally renowned for creating thought-provoking large-scale sculptures, such as a gun-toting Mother Theresa, and often themes his works on past experiences, such as war and exile.

Graffiti by El Seed

Qatar Museums

Graffiti by El Seed

The handball statues appear to be part of a larger effort by tournament organizers to drum up excitement for the game.

Over the weekend, for example, colorful hot air balloons could be seen floating in the skies above Doha, counting down the days until the tournament.

Two other artworks have also been revealed in time for the handball championships – murals created by the Qatari artist Mohammed Al Nasif, and a “calligraffiti” piece by the renowned Tunisian artist El Seed.

Public art

In years past, QM’s public art department has also installed several sculptures at the Hamad International Airport.

They include:

  • Lamp Bear by Swiss artist Urs Fischer;
  • Oryx sculptures by Dutch artist Tom Claassen and a playground by Tom Otterness; and
  • A desert horse sculpture by Qatari artist Ali Hassan.
Damien Hirst "Miraculous Journey"

Penny Yi Wang

Damien Hirst “Miraculous Journey”

The department also had a hand in the installation of Damien Hirst’s enormous bronze statues in front of the Sidra Medical and Research Center; and Adel Abdessemed’s famous head-butt statue of two fighting footballers on the Corniche.

But after a local outcry, that statue was moved to the Museum of Arab Modern Art (Mathaf), and is still not up for public display.


Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that the oryx sculptures and playground at the HIA are by two separate artists.

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