Browsing 'Richard Serra' News

Marking our occasional Sunday photo feature, here’s a selection of dramatic shots taken in Qatar’s desert of the towering “East West” exhibition.

The permanent art installation, which was unveiled by Qatar Museums last year, consists of four steel plates that are about 15m (49 feet) tall.

The exhibition was created for Qatar by renowned American artist Richard Serra, and is located some 60km outside of Doha at the Brouq Nature Reserve near Zekreet.

Richard Serra “East-West/West-East"

Sally Crane

Richard Serra “East-West/West-East”

Serra previously said he chose the spot after walking around the area with the Father Emir, who was nostalgic about it because he used to visit the place with his uncles as a little boy, and watch the antelope gather.

To see East West for yourself, jump onto the Dukhan Highway and exit at the junction for Khawzan (ideally in a 4×4, as  you’ll be off-roading).

Turn to the left on the road following along the line of the highway until you reach an underpass. Follow the track up the peninsula toward Film City to find the sculptures.


Earlier this month, Austrian filmmaker Alex Klim decided to spend his first day off in a long time in the desert, shooting footage of the recently installed “East-West” permanent art installation. The short video he produced of the trip has already been viewed 5,000 times online.

The Qatar resident and a friend took a 4:30am trip to Zekreet (to avoid the heat) to check out the massive collection of steel structures produced by renowned American artist Richard Serra.

Speaking to Doha News, Klim explained his first impression of the artwork, which was commissioned by the Qatar Museums Authority:

“They are huger than expected and placed very far from each other. I like the unique look and feel of the west coast landscape, the rocks itself are fascinating and with the sculptures it kind of gives it this special touch, like you’re in a different world.”


Klim advised anyone else who wishes to check out East-West this summer to go either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, to avoid the midday heat and enjoy the shadows cast by the sun.

To get there, he said:

“The easiest way to get to them is to exit the highway at Zekreet, and then follow the street until the ‘abandoned’ village. From there head northeast for a couple of minutes until you can see them on your right. I’d recommend a 4-wheel drive as there are many stones & rocks lying on the ground. Bring enough water, especially during this time.”

For those feeling less adventurous, another massive Serra artwork is on display at the Al Riwaq exhibition hall near the Museum of Islamic Art until July 6, 2014.

Have you seen either exhibition? Thoughts?

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s official opening of his new work “East-West/West-East” near Zikreet, American artist Richard Serra has launched his first solo exhibition in Qatar.

Serra’s show – which is spread over three locations in Qatar, including the new installation on the West coast – is also his first in the Middle East.

As well as presenting a collection of past works at the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) gallery at Katara, Serra is also the new tenant of the Al Riwaq exhibition space next to the Museum of Islamic Art, previously occupied by British artist Damien Hirst.

However, unlike Hirst, who divided the enormous space into several rooms, Serra has chosen to create one bespoke sculpture that dominates the hall.

Passage of Time

“Passage of Time” is an immense piece. Constructed from two parallel walls of curved steel, visitors are invited to walk both around it and through it.

The passageway, flanked each side by sloping metal randomly marked by oxidization, narrows, widens, narrows and then widens out again, disorienting the visitor. Speaking to Doha News, Serra said:

“Most people quicken their steps when they walk through the piece. If you’re walking through it and you look overhead, the plates are moving faster than you are. So you feel you have to walk faster.”

On the other side of town, the collection at the QMA gallery at Katara features 10 more of Serra’s works, including House of Cards, his first major sculpture made with metal sheets.

House of Cards Richard Serra

Mark Fosh/Flickr

The piece, create in 1969 and refabricated in 1986, is on loan from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York.

Controversial art

As with all of QMA’s recent installations, residents’ reactions to Serra’s new art has been mixed.

Comments on East-West/West-East, the artist’s towering steel plates in the desert in Zikreet, ranged today from “call that art?” to “totally wowed,” with some taking offense at the “incursion” of the pieces into the natural desert landscape.

Serra said he understood that people might feel upset about this:

“I tried to do it in the most simple way I could. But if one is open to the possibility of considering it as a work of art, it might actually change how you see that landscape. We’ve made a place within a place. But if people find it an incursion, I hope you forgive me.”

Others questioned the cost of the work and asked why a Qatari artist had not been asked to produce it.

QMA does not disclose how much its paid for art, so the price tag of Serra’s permanent installation remains unclear. Regardless of the cost, many still came out in defense of his piece, including commenter Caliban, who said:

“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.”

On the other hand, DavidRS88’s response was typical of those who felt unmoved by the work. He wrote:

“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 . . .”

Serra responds

Serra said he is aware that his work provokes polarized opinions. When asked by Doha News to answer these critics, he said perhaps the artwork was misunderstood:

“To ask whether you’re just looking at steel plates, is to misunderstand what the piece does. Because walking around it – it not only describes the rhythm of your body, it measures your relationship with the landscape, and gives you a direction in what would previously have been a non-directional space. It also brings the east and the west sides of the country together.

I think that if people have a prejudice about not wanting to understand something, they won’t understand it. I think anyone who goes out there – going out there alone would be better – and walks that mile there and back, you have to come to the conclusion, whether you think it’s art or not, that it’s a different experience entirely.”

The artist also spoke about his process for where to locate East-West/West-East, after he’d been approached by QMA chairperson Sheikha Al Mayassa and asked to produce the work.

He said he’d visited three different desert areas in Qatar repeatedly over a period of months, but kept coming back to the area near Zikreet:

“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.”

Both the Al Riwaq and Katara exhibitions are free to view and open to the public from tomorrow. They close on July 6th 2014.

Do you plan to check them out? Thoughts?