The Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha, Qatar’s capital, is not an ordinary air traffic facility and it came to a special prominence for including contemporary art within the extensive airport building. Namely, the selection (a mix of acquired pieces and others commissioned for HIA) is curated in close collaboration with Qatar Museums, the institution which pushes traditional exhibiting formats by presenting installations in various public spaces around Qatar. The airport and the museum saw a mutual chance to broaden their boundaries by transforming the later into an immersive exhibition space consisting of a myriad of works of locally, regionally and globally renowned artists with the ultimate desire to enrich the overall traveling experience by making art more accessible for everyone.
In 2019, the Hamad International Airport celebrated World Art Day in Qatar by revealing a new art piece titled Wings by the International Artists Doha (IAD) and with the sponsorship of Qatar Airways. The impressive 7-meter-high and nearly 3-meter-wide installation is made of various artistic works from seventeen IAD artists. Alongside occasional presentations of the new works in the collection, the airport organizes guided tours and community activations (the last action included twenty-six Virginia Commonwealth University students who made charcoal images of the lamp bear that were later transformed into GIFs for the airport’s social media accounts).
Featured image: Jean-Michel Othoniel - Cosmos in Qatar, Doha. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport, Doha Qatar.
The first artwork on our top list was made by the French artist Adel Abdessamed, best known for his multilayered works expressed through video, sculpture, and installation which are focused on the exploration of actions performed on everyday objects. For the Hamad airport, Abdessamed made a world map of old tin cans that he gathered in the marketplaces and streets of Dakar. The piece calls for social and ecological awareness and is a critique of contemporary consumerism.
Mappemondes is located in Concourse A, near gate A7.
Featured image: Adel Abdessemed - Mappemondes. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
The second artwork on our top list to be seen at the Hamad International Airport is symbolically called A Message of Peace to the World made by the acknowledged Iraqi artist Ahmed Al Bahrani. This particular sculpture practically honors the work of the Qatar-based non-profit organization Reach out to Asia (ROTA), which empowers and supports primary and secondary education in underprivileged Asian countries. The artist used ROTA’s logo to underline the necessity of investment in economic security and education in regards to the children well-being. To be more precise, the logo was incorporated into a cube sculpture, so that its surfaces features the iconographic elements relevant for ROTA’s mission, centered on the sun, as a symbol of hope and happiness.
A Message of Peace to the World is located at the Passenger Train's South Node station.
Featured image: Ahmed Al Bahrani - A Message of Peace to the World. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
The established Qatari artist Ali Hassan, whose practice is based on the exploration of spirituality through abstraction, made a fascinating sculpture titled Desert Horse for the Hamad International Airport. It directly refers to the Bedouins, whose entire culture is centered on the horses they used for their travels. The figure of the animal is expressed by Hasan in the form reminiscent of traditional calligraphy (it represent different shapes of the Arabic letter “ن” (“n”)) combined with classical molding techniques.
Desert Horse is located outside the arrivals meet and greet hall, gate number 3.
Featured image: Ali Hasan - Desert Horse. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
These two sculptures, both titled Flying Man, were made by renowned Iraqi artist Dia al-Azzawi, best known for his colorful Pop art inspired abstractions. The sculptures he made for the airport are inspired by the story of a historical Islamic figure who was a pioneering flight experimenter. With these works, al-Azzawi honors the advantages of air traffic in the modern age. Interestingly so, they are inspired by the Mesopotamian pillars from the third century B.C.
Al-Azzawi’s sculptures are located in the Arrivals Meet and Greet Hall, on the East and West ends.
Featured image: Dia Al-Azzawi - Flying Man. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
Cosmos was made by the French installation artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, who was inspired by the oldest surviving Islamic astrolabe in the world, the artifact he found in the collection at the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar. This grandiose globe-shaped installation stands as a symbol of the global traveling culture, the constant movement which enables intercultural communication and collaboration. If observed from the side or below, the visually provoking Cosmos takes the shape of detailed calligraphy drawn in space.
This particular sculpture is located in the airport’s North Node, near concourses D and E.
Featured image: Jean-Michel Othoniel - Cosmos. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
The work of American artist KAWS includes large scale depersonalized clown-like figures one of them being released at the Hamad International Airport. The grand sculpture weighing in at 15 tonnes and standing 32 feet tall is called Small Lie and is made from Afrormosia wood. The artist was inspired by his childhood memories of wooden toys, so the work itself is driven by emotional tension of strength and kindness. Small Lie makes the viewer feel small but also want to protect it and console it. It is the first time that one of KAWS’ pieces is exhibited at an airport.
Small Lie is located in the North node of Hamad airport, near Concourse.
Featured image: KAWS - Small Lie. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
An internationally acclaimed British artist Marc Quinn is mostly known for his figuration casts, but for the Hamad airport he made an entirely abstract piece called The Nurseries of El Dorado, which is an embodiment of a mythical world.
Namely, it is an enlarged bronze flower hybrid consisting of elements taken from different plants. Orchid forms are repeatedly collaged together and reminiscent of DNA formations which often inspired Quinn throughput his work. The sculpture is coated with a white pigment so the translucent and almost ethereal effect is achieved. With this work, Quinn takes into consideration cultural and economic affairs, so the flower can be treated as a symbol of the global market.
Quinn’s Arctic Nurseries of El Dorado is located at the departures hall, just before passport control.
Featured image: Marc Quinn - Arctic Nurseries of El Dorado. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
Rudolf Stingel is an Italian artist known for exploring the concepts of creation, absence, presence, and memory through his Conceptual painting and installations. Stingle is interested in collaboration with the audience and so are his works often participative; since 2007, the artist is producing graffiti-covered insulation panels, Untitled being one of them.
During the airport’s construction, Stingel inserted three surfaces covered with reflective, aluminum-faced insulation panels, with a plea for the construction team at HIA to intervene with their drawings. Afterward, the walls were cast in copper and electroplated with gold, and the number of pieces was selected for permanent display.
Untitled is located in the Arrivals Meet and Greet Hall, towards the bus terminal in the West.
Featured image: Rudolf Stingel - Untitled. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
The sculptural group called 8 Oryxes was made by the renowned Dutch artist Tom Claassen, famous for his large-scale zoomorphic sculptures which embody the tension between the natural and artificial. As the title 8 Oryxes suggests, these sculptures represent a herd of antelopes typical for the Arabian Peninsula.
Claassen’s work is located in the Arrivals Meet and Greet Hall, towards the taxi pavilion in the East.
Featured image: Tom Claassen – 8 Oryxes. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
The American artist Tom Otterness, known for odd-looking figures found in different situations, released a series of eight interactive bronze sculptures for the HIA, a result of a close collaboration with New York’s Polich Tallix Fine Art Foundry. These laid figures are made for enjoyment, interaction, and communication for the specially crafted slides and seats for limbs and play-pen-like chambers for torsos.
The Playground series spread through concourse C at Hamad International Airport, near gates C2, C3, and C8.
Featured image: Tom Otterness - The Playground. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.
The last artwork on our top list to be seen at the airport is called Lamp Bear by Swiss artist Urs Fischer. It is a large yellow teddy bear made from bronze, that sits inside a lamp. This evocative piece reminds travelers of childhood memories and celebrates the idea of travel – both in the bright future and to carless past saturated with the symbols of childhood.
Lamp Bear is located after departures security and passport control at the South Node of the terminal.
Featured image: Urs Fischer - Lamp Bear. Image courtesy of Hamad International Airport.