PHOTOS: Sheikha Al Mayassa unveils new towering sculptures in desert

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.


“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.


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