Qatar’s football team probably won’t make a big impression at November’s Fifa World Cup—ranked 49th in the world they only qualified as hosts. However, the small Gulf state will be fielding a starry team of top international talent in another competition—the race to showcase the country’s cultural credentials to the world.
A new group of over 40 public sculptures has been announced, adding to the dozens already existing. They will be installed over the coming weeks, mostly in locations around the capital Doha—from the airport to the football stadia.
Among the artistic galácticos is Jeff Koons, who has created a 21m-high, mirror-polished sculpture of a dugong, the manatee-like creature that swims in Qatar’s waters. Another giant animal comes from Katharina Fritsch, with one of her trademark blue chickens. A collection of temporary sculptures and installations by Yayoi Kusama will be on view in the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art, while Olafur Eliasson is creating a site-specific work in the desert.
Homegrown talent going on show includes Qatari artist Shua’a Ali, who explores the relationship between the past and present of Doha using stacked, agglomorative sculptural forms. Fellow Qatari Shouq Al Mana’s Egal (2022) will installed along the Lusail Marina Promenade.
Other newly announced works include pieces by Qatari and regional artists including Adel Abidin, Ahmed Al Bahrani, Salman Al-Malek, Monira al Qadiri, Simone Fattal and Faraj Daham. There will also be work by Ernesto Neto, KAWS, Ugo Rondinone, Rashid Johnson, Fischli & Weiss, Faye Toogood, Lawrence Weiner and Franz West.
The programme of public art is run by Qatar Museums, who own all of the works. Qatar Museums is led by Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the sister of the ruling emir and one of the world’s most prolific and influential art collectors, with an annual acquisitions budget that has been estimated at around $1bn.
The newly announced works join a roster of public art that includes works by Louise Bourgeois, Tom Claassen, Isa Genzhen, Richard Serra and Damien Hirst. Qatar Museums has also announced a busy schedule of exhibitions and a rehaul of the Museum of Islamic art, to coincide with the football tournament.