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30 April 2020

To celebrate the inauguration of the National Museum of Qatar in 2019, QM launched Qatar Creates, a week-long series of community events and programs celebrating art, fashion, design, culture and architecture through fashion shows, exhibitions and panel talks. Leading cultural figures and artists from Qatar and all around the world came together for Qatar Creates. To celebrate the museum’s anniversary, we’re taking another look at these events.


Panel: The Art of Engagement

How do artists engage with the world? What is the relationship between artists and their audiences? How does audience perception, participation and interpretation complete an artwork? These were some of the questions explored within this particular Qatar Creates talk.

An impressive lineup of panelists sparked this conversation to life. The panel was moderated by curator Tom Eccles, a public art advisor at Qatar Museums and the executive director for the center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. World famous artists specializing in sculpture and installation art led the discussion, including Olafur Eliasson, Jeff Koons, Doug Aitken, Philippe Parreno and our very own local ‘ARToonist’ Ghada Al Khater. The panel also included renowned art collector and patron Maja Hoffmann.


Olafur Eliasson and Jeff Koons at The Art of Engagement Panel Talk

Pioneering artist Marcel Duchamp stated that art is a two-way exchange — an artist may begin their work in isolation, but the artwork is completed only when explored and interpreted in the hands of the audience. In light of this concept, each panelist highlighted the role of audience engagement within their artistic process, along with their perspective on this two-way exchange.

Olafur Eliasson
“It very much has to do with trust… I encourage people to take agency and co-produce the experience themselves.”

Olafur highlighted how he encouraged personal engagement with his artworks and how the viewer could create a more personal and subjective experience with the art. He used the example of his wildly successful project, “The Weather Project”, where he created a dreamlike atmosphere through a large ‘sun’ and rolling mist inside the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern in London.

 “People both had a highly intimate and very individual experience. Some people had a very contemplative experience, and some had a very apocalyptic experience. The space successfully hosted various views at the same time and offered a multiverse of opportunity because there was no one correct way of experiencing it.”

Ghada Al Khater
“It came from the idea that we wanted to laugh about the situation.”


A Blessing in Disguise by Ghada Al Khater

Ghada spoke about her relationship with her audience blossoming from a sense of social responsibility. People wanted an outlet to express their emotions in response to the Qatar blockade in 2017, and Ghada’s political cartoons and art installations gave them that outlet. People formed a community on social media, sharing Ghada’s artwork and embracing her initial narrative of positivity.

“Social media was the battleground where all communication was happening, including hate. People wanted to communicate their emotions and through art I realized that we could spread humour instead of hate.”

Jeff Koons
“At the end of the day the viewer finishes the narrative.”

Koons highlighted how he initially guides the audience to a point where he can get his personal intentions and feelings across, before letting them finish the narrative themselves.

“When you make something, it’s about the artist's journey and transcendence. The artist reaching their potential. But when you finish it, it’s about the essence of your potential. That’s what art is. The object becomes irrelevant other than your takeaway from it.”

Watch the full panel talk to hear the perspectives of the other artists and the captivating conversations as these world renowned artists discuss the art of engagement.


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