Olafur Eliasson's 'The curious desert' Exhibition Opens in QatarThe artist’s first exhibition in the Gulf region.
Olafur Eliasson, the Icelandic–Danish artist known for his thought-provoking, large-scale art installations, has launched his first exhibition in the gulf titled The curious desert. The extensive body of work spans a site in the Qatari desert near the Al Thakhira Mangrove Reserve and galleries of the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, showcasing light installations, photo series from Iceland, optical devices, and more.
“It is an extraordinary opportunity to create artworks for the sabkha near Al Thakhira Mangrove Reserve. The sun, the wind, the nearby lagoon saltwater – they all help co-produce the artworks that visitors will encounter here,” commented Eliasson. “I hope the artworks in turn may sensitize people to the singular landscape and to the more-than-human agencies at work. The other half of my exhibition, at the National Museum of Qatar, is an assembly of embodied thoughts and actions from over 25 years of working as an artist. These two natural-cultural sites enrich each other – together they make up The curious desert.”
The outdoor installations are found in a sabkha habitat northeast of Doha where twelve temporary pavilions enclose a series of new experimental artworks that are said to respond to the everchanging elements of its natural environment such as sunlight, wind, and water. Highlights include the “Rainbow incubator” which consists of 11 prisms arranged along a reflective sphere according to the path of the sun, generating a perfectly circular rainbow at different times of the year. The “Solar incense burner” magnifies the rays of the sun to ignite a selection of scents typical of Qatar for exactly one hour, marking the times of day, and “Your obsidian garden” features shiny volcanic obsidian standing in stark contrast to the sandy round as if erupting from beneath the desert.
“The curious desert by Olafur Eliasson illustrates the power and problem-solving ability of art. Olafur’s profound body of work, including the new installations in the Qatari desert, opens an important dialogue about the environment, one of the most pressing topics of our time, in the context of our nation’s natural landscapes,” says her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums. “This exhibition is unique in its presentation, which exists both inside and outside of the National Museum of Qatar, to further demonstrate how art is not confined to galleries, but is around us, everywhere, to inspire and educate.”
Documenting the activations is a richly illustrated publication and two-part film created by Tigerlily Production which focuses on the development of Eliasson’s installation Shadows traveling on the sea of the day and his exhibition The curious desert.
The curious desert exhibition will be on view from March 19 to August 15 at a site in the desert outside of Al Thakhira Mangrove Reserve and galleries of the National Museum of Qatar in Doha.
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