The Qatari landscape set to host works by Daniel Arsham and Bruce Nauman

·3-min read
"Falcon" by Tom Claassen was installed in July outside of the Hamad International Airport.

In a year's time, the soccer World Cup will open in Qatar. To mark the occasion, the country has decided to expand its ambitious public art program. Forty new statues and installations will be added to the Qatari landscape next year.

Qatar Museums will install more than 40 sculptures across the Gulf country through the start of the competition on November 21, 2022. They will be visible in public spaces such as shopping malls, train stations, Hamad International Airport and some of the stadiums that will host the World Cup matches.

These new installations, which are commissions for the most part, are by Qatari and international artists. The artists include Adel Abidin, Mohammed Al-Ateeq, Monira al Qadiri as well as Daniel Arsham, Olafur Eliasson, Katharina Fritsch and Bruce Nauman. For Sheikha Al-Mayassa, chairperson of Qatar Museums, this initiative will help boost the country's influence.

"The enrichment of Qatar's public spaces by extraordinary artworks by artists of all nationalities and backgrounds is a point of pride for our nation. I hope these outstanding artworks will be enjoyed as a sweeping outdoor museum experience by our local community as well as the millions of visitors we expect to welcome to Doha in 2022 from the moment they arrive at Hamad International Airport," she said in a statement.

Raise the profile of Qatar... and minimize critics

This public art program was launched in July with the installation of Tom Claassen's monumental sculpture "Falcon" outside Hamad International Airport, Isa Genzken's "Two Orchids" in front of the National Theater and Bruce Nauman's "Untitled (Trench, Shafts, Pit, Tunnel and Chamber)" in front of the M7 Cultural Center. To date, 70 works by 60 artists have already been installed across Qatar.

And the stakes are high for the peninsula. More than a million fans are expected to travel to Qatar for the next World Cup. While the event is eagerly awaited, it is not without controversy with the ecological and human cost of the World Cup in the firing line of critics. In a report published on November 16, Amnesty International denounced the "exploitation on a massive scale" of migrant workers assigned with the construction of sports facilities and the opacity surrounding the number of deaths on their sites.

But with 12 months to go before the competition begins, Qatar seems determined to shine bright on the international stage. The small Gulf emirate first kickstarted the artistic program in 2019, with the long-awaited opening of the Qatar National Museum. This 40,000 sq m building, designed by architect Jean Nouvel, tells the story of Qatar and its inhabitants from more than 700 million years ago to the present day. "Qatar is an ancient land, rich in the traditions of the desert and the sea, but also a land that hosted many past civilizations. While it has modernized its infrastructure, it has still remained true to the core cultural values of our times," Sheikha Al-Mayassa stated on the occasion.

Caroline Drzewinski

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