Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation (QF), attended a celebration unveiling the Seeroo fi al Ardh – the final work of the late world-renowned artist Maqbool Fida Husain – at Education City. HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad al-Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of QF, members of Husain’s family, other dignitaries, and representatives of local and international art institutions were also present.
The most unusual artwork of the Indian-born artist, who got Qatari citizenship in 2010, forms part of his extensive project on Arab civilisation and was designed to be both dynamic and experiential.
A QF statement noted that the installation was commissioned by Her Highness Sheikha Moza, in addition to a series of paintings that reflect the 99 names of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Husain passed away before the Seeroo fi al Ardh could be finished. Later QF completed the installation – housed within a permanent building close to Al Shaqab equestrian centre at Education City. It will be open to the public, incorporating every aspect of the artist’s original plan.
“The Seeroo fi al Ardh, which we are honoured to have brought to completion in the way Husain envisaged many years ago, is a reflection of our belief that art is an avenue that leads to knowledge, discovery, and understanding, and that it should be open to all,” QF Community Development President Machaille al-Naimi said.
“We are delighted that members of Husain’s family are here for the unveiling of an art installation that is unlike any other, and that, for years to come, will bring enjoyment to people from around the world, invite their curiosity, challenge them to analyse and question, and open their eyes to new perspectives,” al-Naimi added.
At the ceremony, Najma Husain, the late artist’s daughter-in-law, said: “M F Husain walked the earth teaching us to appreciate life. It is amazing how his art survived catastrophes, and it taught us to appreciate the visual language of art. He said ‘See the form, the contours, and the colours through unbiased, unconditional eyes. If you do that, this world will be a better place’”, she recalled. Guests at the event witnessed the first performance of the Seeroo fi al Ardh’s main show, which explores the progress of human civilisation through the history of the Arab region and how its inhabitants used nature (land, air and sea) – and later on machines – to further their ambitions.
“The artwork has several things, it has trencadis mosaic, you have the glass horses made in Murano, and the technicality to create this work was too big,” QF’s senior art specialist Layla Ibrahim Bacha told a press preview earlier in the day.
The elements of the artwork, from Abbas Ibn Firnas’ and Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines to glass horses and vintage cars, reflect the presence of an environment conducive to innovation in the Arab world long before the European Renaissance, which Husain aimed to highlight. Firnas’ flying machine predated that of da Vinci’s by a few centuries, while Arabian steeds galloped across deserts long before modern transport arrived in the region.
The artwork features a giant mosaic of horses as its background, showcasing the artist’s love of the animals and Qatar’s equine heritage. As part of the show, all these elements of ‘Seeroo fi al Ardh’ move in harmony with a music Husain has selected. “The fact that we managed to finish all the elements as per his masterplan, is a matter of pride for us. We wanted to preserve the legacy of M F Husain,” she said.
Part of the installation also includes an exhibition displaying the sketches, letters written by the artist, and its original mock-up.
Husain’s works have been exhibited across the globe, including his first solo exhibition in Qatar in 1984 at the Sheraton Doha, with another show at the Museum of Islamic Art over a decade ago.
The artist’s Horses of the Sun exhibition, featuring the paintings he did during his time in Qatar, took place at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, in Education City, earlier this year.
QF presented the show, along with an exhibition that includes his sketches, letters, and the original mock-up of the artwork. Some of these pieces include the installations’ early version of the original sketch, which the artist kept in the same room in his Doha studio, as well as copies of the crystal horses that he hoped to make into full-size horses now on display.
Husain’s letter to Her Highness Sheikha Moza in April 2011, two months before his demise; and a sketchbook with a dedication to Her Highness, are among the highlights at the exhibition.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to see several photos of the artist at work. He is pictured in the Venice studio of Murano shaping the form that is to become the white crystal horse, which is part of ‘Seeroo fi al Ardh’.
The exhibition also displays the conceptualisation and request for museum approval in November 2008 – a sketch in bold multi-colour design of the Musuem of Art and Cinema.
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