Top 5 Art Installations in Qatar and Amazing Facts That Might Surprise You
Spotted a Golden Thumb in Souq Waqif? Encountered a Giant Spider in QNCC? Captured a mandatory selfie with the Lamp Bear in Hamad Airport? If yes, then you’re a certified culture vulture in Qatar!
You’ve probably seen most of the iconic sculptures here. But, did you know the stories behind each work of art? If not, we’ll take a look at some of the famous public art masterpieces, which make Qatar the ‘Must-visit Art Destination’ in 2019 to date.
Our curated list offers a peek into 5 of the art installations in the country that are inspiring the selfie generation and every art connoisseur right now.
1. LAMP BEAR
One of the most noticeable features in Doha’s Hamad International Airport (HIA), the giant teddy bear needs no introduction.
There are over 20 permanent art installations in the airport, and the “Untitled (Lamp/Bear)” takes the center stage. Behold, it is not the "typical size" plush teddy, but a popular piece of art worth millions of dollars.
This bright yellow bear with black eyes that appears to have his head stuck inside an equally gargantuan table lamp, is a welcome sight in the airport.
It welcomes passengers in the airport’s departures terminal and is probably the most photographed item in the area since HIA’s opening in 2014.
Did you know?
• This giant teddy bear sits in the middle of the grand foyer leading to the airport’s duty-free hall.
• You can find it at at the South Node of the departure terminal, just after the departure security and passport control.
• It was created by Swiss artist Urs Fischer, who is based in New York City.
• It is 23-feet (7 meters) high and weighs approximately 18-20 tons (35,000 pounds).
• It is not made out of fur and foam, but sculpted from bronze, and produced between 2005/2006.
• It is reported to be bought by a member of the Qatar royal family for over $6.8 million (QR 25 million) from a 2013 auction at Christie's New York (such price made a new world auction record for the artist, 6 times his previous record).
• It symbolizes objects that define a young child's life, combining a canary yellow teddy bear that reminds travellers and draws onlookers in, connecting them to memories of a childhood keepsake with a bedroom desk lamp.
• It is the largest of the only three in the world created by Fischer. The other 2 are privately owned, though one is accessible on a university campus.
• This is the same teddy that used to be displayed in front of the Seagram Building on New York’s Park Avenue for 5 months.
• There is another baby-blue version of this lamp bear that was displayed in Brown University in the United States from 2016-2020 and was called ‘Blueno’ by the faculty and students.
• Fisher sewed together a 1-foot tall teddy bear and scanned it with a 3-D laser for the drawings to use in building the giant teddy sculpture.
Staying in an airport isn’t exactly an activity for fun, but HIA is a surprisingly excellent place to absorb some culture in Doha. There are loads of other great pieces dotted about the airport.
The desert horse sculpture, extraordinary playgrounds, large-scale murals, are among the works of art from local and international artists that are sights to behold in the airport.
HIA was named multiple times as one of the World’s Best Airport by SkyTrax, servicing over 360,000 flights and 30 million passengers every year.
More pieces will be installed over time. So, the next time you visit the airport, come early so you can explore them all.
2. LE POUCE
Have you seen the giant thumb at the crossroads of Souq Waqif? “Le Pouce” as it's aptly named, translates to English as ‘The Thumb.'
If you’re casually strolling through Qatar’s traditional market, chances are, you will see a gigantic finger right in front of you, and it makes you wonder how, who, by whom, why....
Don't fret. There is a simple explanation to this.
Qatar Museums (QM) installed this giant thumb sculpture here to give a thumbs up for the legendary victory of the Qatari football team at the Asian Cup 2019.
The new public art piece marks this biggest sporting success in Qatar’s history. It is now a famous stop within public art tours that reflect upon both the art and the diverse public spaces of the country.
Did you know?
• This giant thumb sculpture was created by the acclaimed French artist César Baldaccini.
• You can find it within the Souq, the exact location of the piece, in the courtyard next to the police station (in front of Damasca One restaurant).
• QM chose Souq Waqif as its site to act as a monument of modern art in the heart of the city, combing the traditional with the contemporary.
• The reason for choosing this spot is to emphasize the scale of the work in relation to the surrounding buildings and the juxtaposition of the sculpture on the streetscape of cafes.
• At night, the highly polished bronze patina of the sculpture complements the glow of street lighting in Souq Waqif.
• At day time, it is visible from numerous angles.
• The original cast of the artist’s own thumb was first produced for an exhibition on the theme of hands titled Le Main in 1965, in Paris.
Today, this massive eye-catching sculpture has become a popular landmark for tourists and visitors, a familiar spot where people will agree to meet. So, see you at the thumb?
A giant spider took up Qatar's National Convention Centre, but you can relax. Though it is towering 30 feet into the air and menacingly looming on spindly, larger-than-life legs over your head – it doesn’t bite or even move.
The sculpture’s title “Maman” is a French word for Mother (akin to Mummy). It is a creation of renowned French artist Louise Bourgeois, who was 95 at the time of its design.
Bourgeois is sometimes nicknamed the ‘Spider Woman’ for her monumental spider sculpture, but there is more to her art than giant arachnids.
The artist created the monument in tribute to her deceased mother, who had worked as a tapestry restorer in the family’s workshop, so the metaphors of weaving tapestries and web-spinning spiders are striking.
“The Spider is an ode to my mother. She was my best friend. Like a spider, my mother was a weaver,” Bourgeois said in a statement.
Bronze casts of Maman reside in different parts of the word. They are on permanent display in London, Spain, Korea, Tokyo, Ottawa and now in Qatar.
This giant spider sculpture continues to stop the visitors of QNCC in their tracks, allowing them to encounter art in an everyday setting.
Did you know?
• This 9-meter (30 feet) high and wide creature is made of bronze, stainless steel and marble.
• Under its body, the large-scale spider carries a sac of marble eggs.
• Supported on 8 thin legs, the spider’s body was suspended above the ground, which allowed people to walk freely underneath.
• Each ribbed leg was created out of two pieces of steel. Underneath the spider was also a wire-meshed sac that contained 17 white and marble eggs.
Many would probably find a gigantic spider with a bulging egg sac to be a nightmare. But, Bourgeois’ Maman sculptures have gained universal acclaim and are beloved as a mother figure the late artist had in mind.
You can see it from far away so the effect is less spooky. By the time you get close enough to see it clearly, experience the chills.
Visitors can navigate around the creature’s eight splayed legs and peer up at its body, an elegant knot of coiling forms.
Want a close encounter with a giant spider? Maman is waiting for you at QNCC!
Qatar was once considered a transit hub between east and west more than a destination. However, wealth from oil and gas has converted the tiny nation to a prominent art hub.
Nestled between limestone rock formations outside Zekreet, just north of Doha and an hour’s drive from the capital – lies the East-West/West-East installation.
This sight to behold consists of four 50-foot-high steel structures standing in a line. Each of which is over 14m in height and 16.7 meters above the ground.
Spanning over a kilometre in length, the installation has popped up across the desert state. It stands in stark contrast to the soft brown hues of the desert surrounding it.
Crossing the peninsula of the Brouq Nature Reserve that connects the waters of the Gulf, it serves as a shade for isolation and a reflection of the passage of time.
Did you know?
• The installation was created by a renowned American sculptor Richard Serra.
• You can find it approximately 60 kilometres off Doha.
• It is Serra's second structure in the Middle East, which is a land art/sculptural intervention.
• The plates, measured by their relation to the topography, are level to each other; they are also level to the gypsum plateaus on either side.
• Despite the great distance that the plates span, all four can be seen and explored from either end of the sculpture.
While this public art is harder to reach than others, the contrast between the imposing steel columns and the desolate landscape is awe-inspiring.
You can’t truly appreciate the East-West/West-East until you’ve seen it in person — it’s simply stunning. But, since you have to walk on your way to see it, make sure you don’t visit when the temperature is hot like in the midst of summer.
Note: If you are planning on visiting, make sure you leave everything as you found it. Qatar Museums is launching a campaign to protect public art in Doha after the sculpture was defaced by some visitors.
5. THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY
There are many reasons to visit Qatar, and The Miraculous Journey installation is certainly one of them.
See for yourself the miracles from a series of bronze sculptures in Sidra Medical Centre in Education City. A total of 14 pieces of visual wonder depict the gestation of a fetus inside a uterus.
It took the artist approximately 8 years to complete this installation that attests to the beauty of an extraordinary process of the development of an embryo until the human birth.
Nevertheless, we don’t recommend you showing your little ones this work of art when they ask you, “Where do babies come from?” — the 46 ft. tall baby might appear terrifying and can be a real tear-jerker to them.
Did you know?
• This art installation was made by master sculptor Damian Hirst
• It is located in front of the Sidra Medical and Research Center, a new academic medical facility specialising in patient care for women and children in Qatar.
• The figures range in height from 4.8 metres to 10.7 metres and weigh between 9 and 28 tonnes each.
Taking cues from Qatar’s culture and society, the public art pieces are immersive and interactive. Groundbreaking, beautiful, and often thought-provoking, these works have withstood the test of time.
Some of the country’s most interesting art pieces are just on the streets and easily accessible in Doha.
They spark interest and get people talking — interrupting them as they go about their daily lives and make them reflect on the beauty of arts.
Qatar Museums' Public Art Department constantly oversees the installation of artwork by renowned artists in the public realm in Qatar.
““They are for everyone in Qatar, for now, and for future generations,” the Qatari government museums official stated.
So, get your cameras ready. You're gonna take tons of photos and capture the treasures Qatar has to offer!