From art that forces the viewer to reflect on history and one’s own being, to installations that are fun and comment on climate change, Qatar has a plethora of exhibitions that showcase the strength and venerability of the country, and the world as a whole. On our trip through the many installations and artworks that Qatar has to offer, we realised that a trip through the culturally and historically rich Qatar is incomplete without going out of the way to find certain hidden gems, created by international and local artists. In this article, TLB takes you through a few exhibits and installations we feel are a must-see for anyone trying to get to know the artistic and cultural face of the host of FIFA 2022.
THE CURIOUS DESERT
The Curious Desert, conceived by the internationally renowned Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is a 2-part installation, that you can find at the National Museum of Qatar and when you make your way down to Al Thakhira Mangrove Forest, both having you interact with the installations in a different way.
At the National Museum, you will find that the installations play more with light, optics, watercolour, and complex geometric studies. In line with the artist’s want to bring about ecological awareness through his work, The Curious Dessert also has a photo series depicting the natural landscape of Iceland and how it morphs due to climatical changes.
Away from the galleries of the museum, in the Al Thakhira Mangrove Forest, lies the second half of the installation. After consulting with an ecologist to ensure the protection of the area’s native plants and non-human inhabitants, the installation is a unique experience not to be missed. Built away from the museum to ensure a less mundane viewing and to encourage viewers to properly connect and experience his work, The Curious Dessert installations at Al Thakhira have twelve temporary pavilions with new experimental artworks that respond to the ephemeral natural phenomena of the local environment, such as sunlight, wind, and water. In order to allow visitors to experience an individually crated journey through these pieces, you’ll have to walk in and out of the installations’ tent-like pavilions in order to sensitise yourself to the desert surroundings, to naturally occurring phenomena, and to the emergence of art through processes that draw on more-than-human collaboration.
With installations playing with light, optical illusions, drawing machines, and others that bring the environment around installations into a dialogue with the viewers, The Curious Dessert is a must-see for those wanting to interact with art all while also interacting with Qatar’s natural terrain. The exhibit is not permanent, however, and will run till the 15th of August.
SHADOWS TRAVELING ON THE SEA OF THE DAY
Past the rugged desert landscape and past Fort Zubarah, and the village of Ain Mohammed is an installation that is visible from the road, and we urge you to get up close and interact. The installation in question is the Shadows of The Traveling on The Sea of The Day by Olafur Eliasson. Comprised of twenty circular shelters, three single rings, and two double rings, the installation is a beautiful addition to the desert landscape. From afar and up close, they seemingly form a haphazard pattern when in fact they are positioned according to the axes of a fivefold symmetrical pattern, with the ten shelters at the centre forming a pentagram. Although only recently identified in the West, the principles underlying such patterns are visible in quasicrystals and may have influenced some of the geometrically complex designs found in Islamic societies since the Middle Ages.
The underside of the circular roofs is covered with a mirror panel which creates the illusion, of not only the supporting rings being complete but also mirrors the desert in its reflection, a view that allows viewers to contemplate their surroundings and beautifully acts as an extension to the already expansive desert landscape. We highly recommend giving this a look, and as it is a permanent fixture, you can find it anytime you visit.
BEIRUT AND THE GOLDEN SIXTIES: A MANIFESTO OF FRAGILITY
A beautiful and tragic history told through art, Beirut and The Golden Sixties: A Manifesto of Fragility is an exhibition that is one of our favourites. Taking on the subject of the fabled and turbulent history of Lebanon, the exhibit examines the impact of Lebanon’s 1958 political crisis through the outbreak of the 1975 Civil War, through art, and is fantastically moving and captivating.
The exhibition explores and emphasizes how clashes between art, culture, and polarised political views transformed the Beirut art scene into a microcosm for more significant trans-regional conflicts during what is frequently a romanticized period of the nation’s history. The exhibition features the creations of a varied group of artists, whose political beliefs were as steadfast as their enthusiasm for invention.
First shown at Gropius Bau, Berlin, and showcasing 230 artworks and 300 archival documents from nearly 40 collectors worldwide, the exhibit welcomes visitors till the 5th of August. We highly recommend you check it out!
TASWEER PHOTO EXHIBITION – MATHAF
A moving display of images from across the region, ‘I Am the Traveller and Also the Road’ is a photo exhibition that tells unique stories from across the WANA region. The fifth exhibition from the Tasweer Photo Festival Qatar, the exhibition showcases new work by twelve recipients of Tasweer’s annual grant award, one of whom being Reem Falaknaz, a photographer from Oman.
The exhibition can be viewed at the prestigious Mathaf gallery till the 20th of May.
To know more about Mathaf, you can check it out here.
RICHARD SERRA: EAST-WEST/WEST-EAST RICHARD SERRA
If you head out to the Brouq nature reserve, its difficult to miss the next installation on this list. The first piece of art in the Middle East, Richard Serra’s East-West/West-East is certainly a unique installation. As you get closer on the drive to the nature reserve, can observe four steel plates, span over a kilometre, each over fourteen metres in height (above ground).
The installation crosses the peninsula, connecting the gulf’s wasters, and level to each other and the gypsum plateaus on either side. We didn’t know how exactly we feel about this but it is worth taking a trip and figuring it out yourself!
This is just a teaser of a few installations you can expect to see in Qatar, and we assure you, that there are a lot more throughout Doha. As Qatar continues its exploration of art and establishes itself as a hub where artists are welcome to experiment and grow, one thing is certain, you’ll never have a dull moment on your next trip.
If you’d like to know more about the museums in Qatar to enhance your experience, check out our article here!