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Public Art: Activating Spaces Through Beauty

To mark the launch of the 2020 exhibition JEDARIART, we take an in-depth look at Qatar Museums’ wider commitment to public art across the country.

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In December 2020, 18 local artists set to work at sites across Doha, with one goal in mind: to bring the city’s walls to life through murals, colour, art and beauty. Named JEDARIART, it is the latest programme in a long line of public art commitments across not only the capital, but the country.

Anyone who’s ever passed through Qatar's Hamad International Airport (HIA) will have seen Urs Fischer's 23-foot canary yellow Lamp Bear, a playful work of art that has become one of the country's most beloved landmarks. The famous bear is just one part of a much wider commitment by Qatar Museums to public art. 

A sculpture of a  yellow teddy with a lamp above its head at Hamad International Airport

Urs Fischer's Lamp Bear at Hamad International Airport (HIA)

A sculpture of gold wire entwined in the shape of a rose, inspired by the oldest Islamic astrolabe

COSMOS by French artist Jean-Michel Othonell at HIA

Three thick golden walls in the middle of the lobby at Hamad International Airport

Untitled by Italian artist Rudolf Stengel at HIA

As well as the now-iconic bear, there are many other works that have been thoughtfully selected by the curators of the Public Art Department at Qatar Museums. These significant pieces include Maman by Louise Bourgeois at Qatar National Convention Center, Subodh Gupta's Gandhi's Three Monkeys at Katara Cultural Village, and Calligraffiti by El Seed at Salwa Road.

Added to the mix is an impressive display of temporary public art installations such as Martin Creed's Everything Is Going to be Alright, (outside the Al Riwaq gallery) Ghada Al Khater's A Blessing in Disguise (at Fire Station: Artist in Residence) and the Berlin Wall panel presented at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) in celebration of the 2017 Qatar-Germany Year of Culture.

Berlin Wall panel presented at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q)

Berlin Wall panel presented at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q)

Martin Creed's neon lettering spelling out "Everything is Going to be Alright" installed outside the Al Riwaq gallery

Martin Creed’s work Everything Is Going to be Alright

Qatar Museums unveils two public art installations by British artist Martin Creed and emerging Qatari ARToonist Ghada Al Khater

Beyond their impressive size and photographable beauty, these grand-scale public art pieces have a deeper collective meaning and purpose, one that unites communities and inspires creativity.

"The main aim of public art is to spark dialogue and bring art outside the four walls of the museum space,” explains Sarah Foryame Lawler, Curatorial Assistant for Public Art at Qatar Museums. "Unlike art exhibited in museum spaces that are often temporary and indoors, public art creates a more accessible link to art, where it is brought to the public instead of the public having to actively seek it in a gallery or museum space. More so, art displayed publicly has its own permanence as the artists take into account the fabrication, longevity, materials and its widespread impact on the general public."

What's interesting is that public art is always perceived differently by everyone in the community.

Sarah Foryame Lawler, Curatorial Assistant for Public Art, Qatar Museums

For Sarah, public art is seen as a way to "activate" spaces and the overall landscape through artistic expression, public engagement and open dialogue. At the same time, it adds character and distinct personality to spaces, making them attractive to a larger community.


Speaking of activating spaces, Qatar Museums recently introduced JEDARIART, a mural project that provides local artists opportunities to showcase their talents while adding vibrancy and meaning to various walls across the city. 

The project is designed to foster artistic interventions in high traffic areas that engage directly with the community, allowing the public to explore various artistic expressions.

A mural depicting a Qatari woman figure in a cubist fashion

Shuaa Al-Kuwari, Mother, 5 / 6 Park Control Room

A mural of notable Qatari figures on postage stamp designs

Maraym Al-Maadhadi, We Feel Safe in Qatar, Post Office Park

JEDARIART features 18 local artists, who were each given ten days to create works in spaces allocated in partnership with WOQOD, Qatar Rail, Ashghal and Fire Station: Artist in Residence. The programme encourages artists to express their distinct styles and themes with complete artistic freedom. It also supports an anti-vandalism message, which ties into the ongoing national campaign #OurPublicArt.

"Often graffiti and street art is blurred into the same category, but graffiti in this sense is mostly tagging and without permission, which is illegal," Sarah continues. "Therefore, through JEDARIART, we want to encourage the community to better understand street art. This includes commissioned work through partners providing walls to use legally. This is very different to what we are seeing being done by the general public and tourists on Richard Serra’s East-West/West-East sculptures."

About #OurPublicArt

Qatar Museums launched the anti-vandalism campaign #OurPublicArt in September 2020 to encourage a collective effort to protect and preserve Qatar's many public art pieces. Part of the campaign is directly related to Richard Serra's iconic East-West/West-East at Zekreet that has been tagged, scratched and vandalized by visitors throughout the years. 

A wide shot of Richard Serra's East-West-West-East at sunset

East-West/West-East by Richard Serra at Zekreet

As part of the campaign, a specialised team cleaned and restored East-West/West-East in November 2020. Simultaneously, anti-vandalism signage was placed in the Zekreet vicinity to remind residents and tourists of their communal responsibility to cherish and maintain public art. Qatar Museums is also working with multiple governmental organisations such as Qatar Debates to spark discussions and awareness to further spread the anti-vandalism campaign message.

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