Cosmos, a one-of-its-kind public art piece by internationally-acclaimed contemporary French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, does not go unnoticed by a multicultural audience at Hamad International Airport (HIA).
“It is huge sculpture that will give millions of passengers a unique experience at HIA,” the artist told reporters on the sidelines of his visit at the airport to inspect his artwork yesterday.
Othoniel, who is best known for modernising the gardens of the Château de Versailles with his striking glass fountain sculptures, described his artwork as a monumental public art piece that reflects Qatar’s heritage and culture.
His visit to Doha forms part of his larger collaboration with Qatar Museums (QM) aimed at connecting audiences living and visiting the country with inspiring works of art.
Cosmos is the artist’s first art work to be installed in an airport, representing a colossal celestial globe echoing the trajectories of travellers from around the world with more than 30mn passengers passing through HIA last year.
According to QM, the striking piece resembles bright calligraphy drawn in space when observed side-on or from below, and appears in the shape of a blooming rose when observed from the front.
Othoniel drew inspiration for the three-year project from an artefact found in the collection of the I M Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha – the oldest Islamic astrolabe in the world.
“I came to Doha five years ago before the project happened to see a show at MIA and I had the chance to discover the museum, and I was very impressed by the collection, it is amazing, the quality is really great,” the artist stressed.
“I discovered things I’ve never seen (before) such as the astrolabe, it is really linked to the culture of Qatar and also the Islamic motif,” he added.
The artist noted that Cosmos pays homage to this extraordinary object, using gold to gild the steel structure of the piece to evoke the warm light of the sun.
He cited the importance of gold for this artwork– an element linked to various cultures on earth, “which brings also the idea of honour and hope.”
“I did not know I will be part of this huge project, I was impressed by its quality because it is very ambitious in terms of giving the people a high quality art work, and also it is one of the most impressive (artworks) in the world in terms of scale,” Othoniel said. “It is really an important collection given to the country, to the people, because it is for everybody.”
Passengers, many of whom usually stay at the airport for a short period, will have the chance to spend more time looking at the artworks while waiting for their flights, he added.
Cosmos now joins other a diverse range of stunning artworks at HIA such as the Lamp Bear by Urs Fischer, Small Lie by KAWS, a series of Oryx sculptures by Dutch artist Tom Claassen, and installations entitled ‘Playground’ by American artist Tom Otterness, among others.
Some of the regional and international artists featured at the airport include Adel Abdessemed, Dia Azzawi, Ahmed al-Bahrani, Maurizio Cattelan, Don Gummer, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Marc Quinn, Anselm Reyle, Rudolf Stingel and Bill Viola.
QM, under the patronage of its chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad al-Thani, worked with local, regional and international artists for many years to commission and acquire artworks for key locations in and around HIA, as well as other parts of the country. It aims to create easily accessible cultural experiences for all those who live in and visit Qatar.
Earlier this summer, Jean-Michel Othoniel participated in a panel discussion at The New York Times Art Leaders Network 2018 with QM chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and other distinguished figures from the world of architecture.
The artist expressed his keen interest in doing public art, where an artist spends time in the street apart from holding shows in museums, galleries and privately-commissioned ones.
“In fact in the airport, what is interesting is that it is a multicultural public,” he said,. “As an artist, it is always interesting to see how people (from different backgrounds) react to your work.”
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