Art in the Desert by Olafur Eliasson, Simone Fattal and Ernesto Neto by Qatar Museums.

Qatar museums unveiled site-specific public artworks by Olafur Eliasson, Simone Fattal and Ernesto Neto near Nation’s Northern Heritage Sites.

Newly commissioned artworks are presented as part of one of the world’s most ambitious public art programmes comprised of more than 100 works.

Qatar Museums and its Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani unveiled large-scale, site-specific artworks by renowned artists Olafur Eliasson, Simone Fattal and Ernesto Neto that were commissioned for the desert outside of Al Zubarah and Ain Mohammed heritage sites in the nation’s northernmost region.

The works join more than 100 public artworks that Qatar Museums has installed across the nation’s public spaces, from the Hamad International Airport to the bustling Souq Waqif.

Olafur Eliasson’s Shadows travelling on the sea of the day (2022) continues the Icelandic-Danish artist’s longstanding exploration into the interplay of human perception and the natural world.

Olafur Eliasson Shadows travelling on the Sea of the day

The installation comprises twenty mirrored circular shelters, three single rings, and two double rings that are positioned according to the axes of a fivefold symmetrical pattern, with the ten shelters at the centre forming a pentagram, or five-pointed star.

The principles behind such patterns were recently discovered by mathematicians in the West, although they may have informed some of the sophisticated designs found in Islamic cultures since medieval times.

Regarding his artwork, Olafur Eliasson said, “Shadows travelling on the sea of the day, 2022, is an invitation to resync with the planet.

Olafur Eliasson Shadows travelling on the Sea of the day

It is a celebration of everything being in and moving through the desert site north of Doha at the time of your visit – animals, plants, and human beings; stories, traditions, and cultural artefacts; wind, sunlight, air, and shimmering heat. 

On arriving at the installation, looking up at the mirrored undersides, you will come to realise that you are, in fact, looking down – at the earth and at yourself. Above and below, sand envelops you, together with anyone else sharing the space. It is a kind of reality check of your connectedness to the ground. The mirrors connect and perfect what is physically distinct and partial, linking the actual surroundings with the reflected space and creating a sea of interconnections. The oscillation of your gaze, together with the movement of your body, may amplify your sense of presence, while the curving structures seem to dematerialise, becoming naturalcultural landscape.”

 

For Maqam I, Maqam II, Maqam III (2021) Lebanese artist Simone Fattal has created three monumental sculptures that appear to be geographical landmarks, making them in a blue-coloured granite with a manifold shape that can be perceived as a dune, a construction or a tent. These shapes, both natural and manmade, connect deeply with the archetypes of the landscape and history of Qatar. 

Simone Fattal, Maqam I, Maqam II, Maqam III

Simone Fattal said of her work, “Realised in Brittany in blue granite, the sculptures are especially there to create a make believe, to make people do a double take: Are they pyramids of old? Are they tents suddenly fixed there for a long time? They are both. They will offer shelter to the passerby, and cool from the sun, and will talk to the imagination, as they represent a composite image of what we expect to find in the desert.”

Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto’s immersive installation Slug Turtle, TemplEarth (2022), a chant for the Earth, pays homage to the natural environment and creates a space for meditation, reflection and communion between visitors and the spirit of the desert. Slug Turtle, TemplEarth is a structure composed of 8 football goal frames in an octagonal ring, centered on a ceramic earth globe sculpture and surrounded by a vast surface made of white crocheted netting. The work continues the artist’s ongoing inquiry into body space, balance and gravity, informed equally by energy and spirituality.

 

Neto said of his work, “Slug Turtle, TemplEarth invites people to inhabit its body, to sing, dance, sit down on its cushions, to feel and breathe in the energy, the force, the air, the beauty and the love of our wonderful paradise planet.

 

The work creates a space to meditate about our present, past and future in a social-ecological network shared by humans, birds, bugs, plants and all other forms of life. Commissioned on the occasion of the 2022 World Cup, Slug Turtle, TemplEarth was conceived with a dream of inviting the leader of every participating country to meditate together in silence about the miracle of living in this cosmic mother Earth hug: our goal is the draw.”

 

 

The installation of these important artworks brings to light the significance of Qatar’s nearby heritage sites, which Qatar Museums is responsible for preserving and protecting. Al Zubarah, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 and is located approximately 100 km northwest of Doha, is the best-preserved example in the Gulf region of an 18th-19th century pearl merchant town. Unlike its contemporaries, it is largely intact and has not been lost beneath the region’s vast modern cities. Ain Mohammad, an abandoned village located 3.5 km north of Al Zubarah, sits directly opposite the new Al Zubarah Visitor Centre and consists of 24 buildings including 2 mosques and a fort. The village has recently been consolidated in an effort to repurpose it as a site for heritage activities and traditional sports, among other programs.

 

 

In addition to the installations by Eliasson, Fattal and Neto, the nation’s public spaces are being transformed into a vast outdoor art museum experience with artworks by Jeff Koons, Ugo Rondinone, KAWS, Yayoi Kusama, Katharina Fritsch, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Suki Seokyeong Kang, Shilpa Gupta, Shezad Dawood, Shua’a Ali, Faraj Daham, Shouq Al Mana, Monira Al Qadiri and Salman Al Malek, among other international, regional and Qatari artists. All of these works will be installed before the World Cup begins. Making art a part of everyday life, Qatar became one of the first countries in the Gulf to create a comprehensive contemporary public art programme. Qatar Museums is working with various entities on Qatar’s public art programme including the Hamad International Airport, the Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy, and the Public Works Authority (Ashghal) to install artworks in a variety of both highly trafficked and unexpected public spaces designed to surprise and delight passersby. 

 

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