Richard Serra @ Doha, Qatar

So glad to have found this building as I would not want to walk through the heat any longer

Been traveling but have not been spending quite enough waking hours blogging about my adventures in the Middle East.

Please excuse my later than latergrams and here we go!

I made a quick stop at Doha in the blazing summer of 2014 and coincidentally, was able to catch Richard Serra's eponymous exhibitions at both locations just days before they closed on the 6th of July 2014. Known for his abstract minimalist sculptures, this was the American artist's first solo exhibition in the Middle East. Our first stop was at ALRIWAQ DOHA exhibition space at the Museum of Islamic Art Park and the second; at the QMA Gallery in Katara.

Passage of Time (2012)

Al Riwaq. It looks bigger on the inside - trust me.
My dear family enduring me on this Serra tripping journey. 
It looked like a ship had lost its way and somehow landed perfectly in Al Riwaq. The massive size of the steel plates took me by surprise for it took up all the space in the entire building. Upon closer inspection, the unpolished curving parallel lines of steel seem to beckon me to walk around it and then into the narrow opening between the walls.

I wandered into the curved passage and found myself unable to see the path ahead as I turned and changed directions in a smooth wave-like motion. Serra's intention was to involve his viewers with his work through their own rhythm and time. In a brief moment, it was as if a snippet of time in itself had taken a physical form. By walking through the curved plates, I had become a traveler and each turn lead to a new destination. It worked out particularly well as a participatory experience, one which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I came, I saw, I walked the Passage of Time. 
A lone visitor walks the hull of  'time'.

@QMA Gallery Katara

The quietly hidden Building no. 10 at Katara.

Locating the building which housed the QMA Gallery took more effort than expected. We asked several people in the vicinity before finally arriving at the gallery which was situated behind the amphitheater. Finally, we arrived at Building 10 where Serra showed off 10 pieces of work. Several of which could easily make the list of most dangerous installations. The collection is a cohesive culmination of Serra's extensive fifty-year career.

The 4 Rifts (2011 - 2013)
The pieces included Serra's 4 Rifts - a series of works on large sheets of double laminated Hiromi paper from 2011 and 2013 - and Double Torqued Ellipse III (1999), installed just outside in close proximity to the main exhibit. Made out of lead and steel, the torqued ellipse, one of Serra's more recent work encourages you to duck inside the structure and take in the playful steaks of light and shadows.

Not to be outdone by the limits of gravity is Serra's "One Ton Prop" House of Cards (1969) on rare loan from the Museum of Modern art in New York and the Inverted House of Cards (1969).

Looking for a larger test of equilibrium? Behold, "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8" (1987). From above, it resembles the blades of a fan. Rust molted and grainy, the sculpture is a monster to behold. Looking at the thick steel plates, it embodies a certain strength in its oppressive scale and circular precision. Like many of Serra's pieces, visitors were welcomed to slip in between the steel plates and engage with the sculpture by walking alongside and spending time within the space.

Piece entitled '1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8' (1987)
There's no telling what's behind this identical wall...
In addition to these simultaneous exhibits, Serra also installed four permanent standing-plates in the desert landscape of the Brouq Nature Reserve, some 60km outside Doha. The towering East-West/West-East structures span over a kilometer in length and can be seen or view from both ends of the trail.

How does an American sculpturer's work fit into the stark Qatar desert? Seen as a departure from the other more 'human' pieces of the QMA's commissioned pieces of Damien Hirst's Miraculous Journey and Adel Abdessemed’s Coup de Tête, Serra's enormous steel plates take on a heavier, almost unnatural stance. However, one might also argue that you cannot deny the impact his participatory pieces have upon one's relationship with space and form. For that, I salute Serra for being a master of abstract spacial manipulation.


Occasional hand model with a taste for adventure.

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