Public artworks unveiled at new international airport in Qatar

The Qatar Museum Authority unveils new public artworks at Hamad International Airport.

At the official opening of Qatar’s new international airport on 30 April 2014, the Qatar Museum Authority (QMA) unveiled major public art installations by local and international artists in its continued commitment to the development of its Public Art programme.

Hamad International Airport, Qatar. Image from

Hamad International Airport, Qatar. Photograph by Stan Dalone and Miran Rijavic, taken from

The QMA, as part of its collaboration with the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) Steering Committee, has been working for over five years with local, regional and international artists to commission and acquire artworks in key locations within and around the new Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha. On 30 April 2014, with the official opening of HIA, the QMA unveiled a number of major public art installations on the airport’s premises.

Local artists take the lead

Artworks by local artists comprise site-specific commissions as well as acquired works. Qatari artist Faraj Duham has created large-scale murals while Ali Hassan has produced a desert horse sculpture.

The HIA departure hall permanently features work by Mohamed al-Misnad, Hussein Mohamed al-Shafei, Sarah Abd al-Majed and Arioseto Kusuma Adi. These four Qatari artists were the winners of a 2012 photography competition organised by the QMA and the NDIA Steering Committee in an effort to foster local community participation.

Other local artists include Mohamed Aljaida, Mubarak al-Malik, Amal Alatham and Yousif Ahmed.

Urs Fischer, 'Lamp Bear', (2005-2006). Installation view in Park Avenue, New York, prior to Christie's auction in 2011. Image from

Urs Fischer, ‘Lamp Bear’, 2005-2006. Installation view in Park Avenue, New York, prior to Christie’s auction in 2011. Image from

The bear and the oryx: International artists at HIA

The public art on permanent display at the airport also includes international artists’ works, such as Swiss artist Urs Fischer’s Lamp Bear, which sold for USD6.8 million at Christie’s New York in 2011. In the arrival hall, Dutch artist Tom Claassen has produced a series of bronze sculptures of the oryx, an antelope native to the Arabian Peninsula.

More artworks will be unveiled over the next year, including pieces by international artists Adel Abdessemed (Algeria), Dia Azzawi (Iraq), Ahmed al-Bahrani (Iraq), Maurizio Cattelan (Italy), Don Gummer (USA), Keith Haring (USA), Damien Hirst (UK), Jenny Holzer (USA), Tom Otterness (USA), Marc Quinn (UK), Anselm Reyle (Germany), Rudolf Stingel (USA) and Bill Viola (USA).

Algerian artist eL Seed with one of his 'calligraffiti' murals in Salwa Road, Doha. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Tunisian artist eL Seed with one of his ‘calligraffiti’ murals in Salwa Road, Doha. Photograph by Ouahid Berrehouma. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Qatar’s Public Art programme

Headed by former Christie’s post-war and contemporary art specialist Jean-Paul Engelen, the QMA’s Public Art Department plays a central role in the development of the contemporary artscape in Qatar. In addition to organising and managing exhibitions at Al Riwaq and the QMA gallery in Katara, the Department also oversees the installation of artworks in the public realm in Qatar. Recently, the Public Art Department also announced the inception of an artist residency programme for local artists.

Public artworks in Qatar include the ‘calligraffiti’ – Arabic calligraphy fused with contemporary street art or graffiti – by French-Tunisian artist eL Seed in four underground tunnels on Salwa Road in Doha, commissioned by QMA’s Public Art Department and the Public Works Authority (Ashghal). The 52 large-scale murals feature different and unique themes inspired by anecdotes from Qatari culture and markers of Qatari life.

Subodh Gupta, 'Gandhi's Three Monkeys', at Katara Cultural Village. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Subodh Gupta, ‘Gandhi’s Three Monkeys’, at Katara Cultural Village. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Three large-scale sculptures by Indian artist Subodh Gupta, entitled Gandhi’s Three Monkeys (2008), can also be viewed at Katara Cultural Village. The artworks – made from bronze, steel and old utensils – refer to India’s famous hero of peace, Mahatma Gandhi, portrayed as three heads in military headgear.

Other public artworks around Qatar include Richard Serra’s recent East-West/West-East at Brouq Nature Reserve and 7 at the Museum of Islamic Art Park, Louise Bourgeois’s Maman at the Qatar National Convention Centre, and Damien Hirst’s The Miraculous Journey at the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, among others.

Richard Serra, 'East/West, West/East', at Bouq Nature Reserve, Qatar. Image courtesy QMA Marketing on Wikimedia Commons.

Richard Serra, ‘East/West, West/East’, at Bouq Nature Reserve, Qatar. Image courtesy QMA Marketing on Wikimedia Commons.

Art at the terminal

Along with art at metro stations, such as the recent Singapore MTR and Dubai Metro projects, art in airports is also a growing worldwide trend: in Europe, London’s Heathrow recently unveiled a permanent installation at Terminal 2, an annex of Amsterdam’s airport is devoted to works from the Rijksmuseum, and Paris’ Charles de Gaulle launched a museum of works by illustrious French artists in 2013.

In Asia, New Delhi’s international airport displays works by some renowned Indian artists, while Mumbai’s international airport houses the largest art collection at any airport in the world. Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport features a collection of 200 paintings and sculptures; Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita and Singapore’s Changi airports all feature temporary installations.

In a statement to Gulf Times, a senior QMA official said:

In Qatar, culture is at the heart of its human and national development – and there is no better place to creatively welcome visitors and residents than the airport itself.

Damien Hirst, 'The Miraculous Journey', at the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, Qatar. Photo by Nadine Al Koudsi. Image courtesy QMA Marketing on Wikimedia Commons.

Damien Hirst, ‘The Miraculous Journey’, at the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, Qatar. Photo by Nadine Al Koudsi. Image courtesy QMA Marketing on Wikimedia Commons.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia


Related Topics: Middle Eastern and Asian artists, American artists, European artists, installation, sculpture, photography, graffiti, art tourism, promoting art, public art, art spaces, art in Qatar

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