Friday, June 3, 2011

News From Qatar -- New Richard Serra Commission For MIA Park


DOHA.- Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) announced today that it will open MIA Park, a new cultural destination on Doha’s Corniche, on December 16, 2011. Located on the grounds of the world-renowned Museum of Islamic Art, the nearly 280,000-square-meter (68-acre), crescent-shaped park is designed by Pei Partnership Architects of New York and will feature a vertical steel sculpture by internationally acclaimed American artist Richard Serra. The as-yet-untitled sculpture is Richard Serra’s first public artwork in the Middle East. Details of the MIA Park’s grand opening and related public events will be announced at a later date.

     “MIA Park will be a dynamic place of learning and exploration for children, families and art enthusiasts, with cultural, educational and recreational activities designed to attract one and all,” said QMA Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. “We are especially proud that this new destination will feature an extraordinary work by Richard Serra, one of the leading sculptors of our time. Like the Museum of Islamic Art itself, Richard Serra’s sculpture will serve as a beacon for the arts in Qatar and will further the QMA’s mission to encourage global cultural exchange and introduce the Doha community to art from around the world.”

     “It is my hope that the sculpture will provide both a public place and a private space for people to gather and experience the narrow, vertical, open column in relation to themselves, the Museum of Islamic Art, the city of Doha, the surrounding sea, and the sky as seen through the opening at the top of the sculpture,” said Richard Serra.

     MIA Park will include five kilometers (more than three miles) of lighted pedestrian pathways shaded by native palm trees. Visitors will also find paddle boats for rent in a small cove in Doha Bay, as well as a café and kiosks offering refreshments. Year-round public activities at MIA Park will include film screenings, sports events, storytelling programs and art workshops. MIA Park will be developed in phases, with additional elements and amenities to be announced in the future. 

Reader Note:  I think it's terrific and highly appropriate that MIA Park (as an American used to the abbreviation MIA denoting "missing in action", the name caught me off-guard initially), surrounding an Islamic museum, will feature the work of the distinguished abstract artist, Richard Serra, although it has to be said that Serra's work, although powerful and impressive, is never, as former Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown put it so well (in another context) of the cuddly "sits down and visits" variety.  (Enervated New Yorkers had strong, easily understood negative feelings about Serra's Tilted Arc sculpture (see above) that was placed in front of the Federal Building in 1981.) Still, I find it odd that QMA Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has described the new Serra work as "extraordinary" at a time preceding its creation.   I mean, we all hope for the best, but.......

Her statement, while clearly well-intended, is a little too Hollywood for me. 

For more on the contemporary Qatar art scene, please see Here.

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