Forty sculptures by Qatari and international artists are due to spring up across Doha in Qatar over the next year for a major public art programme marking the Fifa football World Cup launching next November. The “outdoor museum” programme is overseen by Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the chairperson of Qatar Museums. The budget for the new public art programme is undisclosed.
From now until the opening of the World Cup, the state body Qatar Museums will install more than 40 new and commissioned public artworks throughout Doha, says a statement. These works will go on display “in a variety of public spaces including parks and shopping areas, educational and athletic facilities, Hamad International Airport and Q-Rail stations, as well as select stadiums that will host the World Cup Games”.
Some pieces were installed over the summer including Tom Claassen’s Falcon (2021) outside the Hamad International Airport, Untitled (Trench, Shafts, Pit, Tunnel and Chamber) (1978) by US artist Bruce Nauman outside of M7 in Msheireb Downtown Doha and Two Orchids (2015) by Isa Genzken near theNational Theatre. Later this year, German artist Katharina Fritsch’s newly commissioned bright blue Hahn/Cock will be unveiled in a “prominent location in Doha”, the statement adds. Other participating artists are due to be announced.
Qatar Museums is building an extensive public art programme with works on show at Hamad International Airport by regional and local artists such as Mohammed Aljaida, Amal Al Raban, and Salman Al Malik. Meanwhile, Damien Hirst’s controversial sculptures of a foetus in various stages of development, The Miraculous Journey, went back on view in 2018. The 14 bronze sculptures were initially unveiled in 2013 but were covered up after an outcry on social media; the official reason given was that the pieces needed to be protected from building work at Doha’s Sidra Medical and Research Hospital.
The new sculpture initiative in Doha will rival another important public art project in the Middle East, the open-air sculpture museum on the Corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which was built in the 1970s and includes works by Hans Arp, Henry Moore and Maha Malluh. Despite the cultural offensive, the small oil-rich state of Qatar continues to face charges of neglect of migrant workers brought in to build the new football stadiums. The Qatar government says that it introduced labour reforms in 2017 and progress has subsequently been made regarding the treatment of such workers.