Hamad International Airport in Doha has a permanent collection of art installations curated in collaboration with Qatar Museums. The most famous, and certainly the most instagrammable, is the giant teddy bear in the concourse's grand foyer. But one of the latest showpieces eclipses even that sculpture in height, reports Jason Holland.

Doha's Hamad International has gone big on its commitment to art at the airport – and also in the size of its artworks. The 23ft ‘Lamp Bear’ sculpture by Swiss artist Urs Fischer takes centre stage in the grand foyer leading to the duty free hall, and has become synonymous with the country's gateway.

One of Hamad International’s newest installations though eclipses even the giant teddy bear in size – representing another giant commitment to airport art despite its name, ‘Small Lies’.

The sculpture by American artist KAWS, reminiscent of a wooden marionette, is made from Afrormosia wood, and weighs in at 15 tonnes. The oversized piece plays with an emotional tension of strength and kindness, according to the artist (real name Brian Donnelly). It “makes the viewer feel small but also want to protect it and console it”, he says.

The airport notes that KAWS’s “distinctive and influential” work “connects people across generations with contemporary art and opens up the world of popular culture to young and diverse audiences across the globe”.

The installation represents the latest tie-up between the airport and Qatar Museums, which began with the acquisition of the Lamp Bear sculpture.

“We support Qatar Museums’ main mission in developing and promoting art and heritage with the ambition to help fulfil the cultural goals of the 2030 Qatar National Vision,” says Hamad International Airport Vice President – Commercial and Marketing Abdulaziz Al Mass.

Inviting interaction: One of Tom Otterness' Playground sculptures at Hamad International.

“Art goes well beyond the walls of a traditional museum or a gallery. Qatar Museums is curating all art pieces displayed at the airport, hence supporting Hamad International in designing an innovative space for public art.”

Hamad International Airport Chief Operating Officer Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer comments: “In addition to the existing collection of art pieces, Hamad International’s launch of the new art piece positions itself as the gateway to the arts and culture and takes the passenger experience to a whole new level.

“As we are gearing up to welcome more than 50 million passengers by 2022, the airport is giving travellers a memorable journey through the arts and culture.”

Airport highlights

“From striking sculptures to specially commissioned photography, our public art offering at Hamad International aims to inspire travellers as well as local talents flying through the airport,” says Qatar Museums Chief Strategic Planning Officer Khalid Yousef Al Ibrahim.

Here we take a look at some more cultural highlights from an airport truly recast as an artport.

British artist Marc Quinn’s lovely artwork ‘The Nurseries of El Dorado’ comprises a number of bronze sculptures. Located in the departures hall, just before passport control, the piece aims to represent “an almost mythical world”.

In ‘Mappemondes’, artist Adel Abdessamed has created a world map using old tin cans collected from market places and streets in Dakar. The piece highlights the consequences of the ‘throwaway culture’ of the modern world.

American sculptor Tom Otterness has offered his own take on the playground through a series of installations around the airport. The large-scale bronze figures appear to be in play with one another and invite visitors to engage and interact.

Lamp Bear by Swiss artist Urs Fischer celebrates the idea of travel, just as the artist celebrates travelling back in time to the symbols of childhood. It is “a place we have all been to and where, once in a while, we like to go back”.

Qatari artist Ali Hassan’s ‘Desert Horse’ captures the spirit of travel and the flow of movement, just as the Bedouins used horses for travel in the past.

Cosmos, by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, was unveiled in July 2018. It is a globe echoing the trajectories of travellers around the planet. What better canvas for such a work than a transit-led airport?

Sense of Place aplenty in this herd of oryx statues by Dutch artist Tom Claassen, which welcomes travellers in the arrivals hall.

‘Flying Man’ by Iraqi artist Dia al-Azzawi is a pair of sculptures based on the story of Abu Firnas, a historical figure from the Islamic world and early pioneer in experimenting with flight.

Designed by Iraqi artist Ahmed Al Bahrani, ‘A message of peace to the world’ is located at the Passenger Train's South Node station. It honours the work of Reach out to Asia, a non-profit organisation based in Qatar that supports primary and secondary education in underprivileged countries throughout Asia.

‘Untitled’ by Italian artist Rudolf Stingel reflects on the passage of time.

The artist often invites audiences to interact with his work, extending the artistic process and allowing his artwork to develop as ‘collaborations’.

The Moodie Davitt e-Zine | Issue 244 | 20 July 2018