News : Richard Serra's Qatari Desert Sculptures

Qatar 

 Richard Serra's 'East-West/West-East' in Qatar. 

Richard Serra's 'East-West/West-East' in Qatar. 

American sculptor Richard Serra was commissioned to produce a site-specific standing-plate work for the desert in the Brouq Nature Reserve, near Zekreet in western Qatar. The artist has been visiting the region for the past 12 years, and while initally not interested in creating a work in the desert, he agreed to take a look after Sheikha Mayassa, Chairperson of the country's Museums Authority suggested he build something in the landscape. The site at Zekreet (about an hour’s drive from the capital, Doha) has a ground plane, and then an elevation of about 16 metres – like two elevation planes within one field.

Consisting of four steel plates measured by their relation to the topography, “East-West/West-East” was officially launched on April 11. The plates span more than one kilometres in length through a natural corridor formed by gypsum plateaus.  Made of smooth steel and already beginning to rust as is trademark of Serra’s later works, the sculptures seem as though they have existed there for centuries. Despite the great distance that the plates span, all four can be seen from either end of the sculpture.

 As well as this desert commission, the artist has two shows opening in Doha: a retrospective  offering a complete view of Serra’s almost fifty years of practice at the QMA Gallery, and a new work ‘Passage of Time’ taking up  the whole 5,000 square metres of the Al Riwaq exhibition space on the Corniche.

 Serra elaborates on his desert commission to The Independent:

Before, there was no way of discerning where anything was in relation to where you were, because you had no point of reference. What that piece does is give you a point of reference in relationship to a line, and your upstanding relationship to a vertical plane and infinity, and a perspectival relationship to a context – and pulls that context together. It makes it graspable. That’s actually a place out there now, and there certainly wasn’t one before. We did that simply by putting up four plates.
— Richard Serra

 While public art is new in Doha, what is important to Serra is not necessarily knowing about art, but the experience of the viewer. The work is but one in a growing public art landscape, aiming to put the Qatari capital on he map as a cultural centre and to broaden global perceptions of Islamic culture. It follows the 2013 unveiling of Damien Hirst’s ‘The Miraclous Journey’ and joins a collection of other important works installed throughout the country incuding ‘Maman’ by Louise Bourgeois, Calligraffiti project by eL Seed, and Serra’s tower ‘7’ – built on a on a specially constructed pier next to IM Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art.

 Richard Serra, Passage of Time, 2013

Richard Serra, Passage of Time, 2013

 Richard Serra's '7'. Photo: Lucy Rees, Doha, Qatar, 2012. 

Richard Serra's '7'. Photo: Lucy Rees, Doha, Qatar, 2012. 

You can read more about the Richard Serra exhibitions and projects here

Read about my visit to Qatar in 2011 on the blog here 

Watch this fantastic video below documenting the conception and installation of Richard Serra's '7' in 2011.