In the desert of Qatar, a work of art is desperately looking for visitors

In the desert of Qatar, a work of art is desperately looking for visitors

Sand as far as the eye can see and suddenly dark towers that seem to rise out of the ground. To see the work of American artist Richard Serra in the desert of Qatar, the visitor must be curious and… motivated.

Located 70 km from the capital Doha, the facility is called “East-West/West-East” (“East-West/West-East”) and consists of a group of four rusty steel towers, each more than 14 meters high and extends over a kilometer.

Known for its grandiose landscapes, this part of the desert in the Brouq Nature Reserve is isolated and only accessible by 4×4 vehicles. Few road signs indicate the site and it’s not uncommon for vehicles to get stuck in the sand, said Firas, a Syrian who has worked as a tour guide in Qatar since 2006.

Not to mention the temperature, which can soar up to 50 degrees Celsius, which will discourage even contemporary art lovers.

Abdulrahman Al Ishaq, Director of Public Art at Qatar Museums, the public institution responsible for managing museums, admits that considering the installation by the famous American artist is not easy. But he compares the journey there to “a pilgrimage”. “The discovery of the work of art begins with the path taken,” he suggests.

Richard Serra’s work exemplifies Qatar’s massive investment in art, a trend that’s accelerating in the run-up to the World Cup when soccer fans seek activities between games.

The country is preparing to welcome more than a million people to the event, which begins on November 20th.

– acts of vandalism –

Meanwhile, the American artist’s work has received little publicity, and security officers who monitor the site 24 hours a day are often alone on site.

“On days with many visitors, we can have a hundred people,” explains one of them.

Richard Serra, 83, is one of America’s best-known living sculptors. His creations weigh tons and are exhibited all over the world.

The sculptor was commissioned to install his blocks in the desert by Sheikha Al-Mayassa Al-Thani, sister of the Emir of Qatar and President of Qatar Museums.

His work has been closely watched by security officials since the vandalism files in 2020 and 2021 that left at least six people arrested.

Abdulrahman Al Ishaq regrets cleaning was ‘expensive’ “It’s best not to touch such a work of art because it naturally rusts over time,” he explains.

More than 40 works of art are on display in Qatar, both outdoors and in parks or in hotels, such as a 4.25 meter sculpture of a blue rooster by German sculptor Katharina Fritsch.


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