East-West/West-East : Sculpture in The Desert
The permanent art installation, consists of four steel plates that are about 15m (49 feet) tall. The artwork, created for Qatar by renowned American artist Richard Serra’s, is called “East-West/West-East,” and is located some 60km outside of Doha at the Brouq Nature Reserve near Zekreet.
“The placement (of the pieces) is not geometrical, it’s topological; they can only be placed where they are to achieve the curvature of the land. If one walks through the pieces; he will understand not only the rhythm of himself in relationship to the landscape but also the rhythm of himself in relationship to the height and the length of the pieces.” – Richard Serra
EAST-WEST/WEST-EAST is a new sculpture by Richard Serra commissioned by Sheikha al-Mayassa al-Thani of Qatar; it is located in the Brouq Nature Reserve in the western portion of this tiny state in the Gulf enriched by its holdings of gas and oil. To arrive at the desert site, you drive west from Doha for forty miles (almost the width of the country), passing one construction site after another on a vast freeway, and then, suddenly, the landscape becomes almost lunar in its vacancy. Exiting via Camel Underpass No. 7, you travel seven or eight more miles on a makeshift road until the sculpture appears in the distance. Depending on the time of day and year, you are likely to be alone.
East-West/West-East consists of four steel plates arrayed vertically at irregular intervals in a straight line about a half mile in length along the compass points of the title. Anchored by supports of steel and concrete set below the level of the hard sand (it is actually a gritty gypsum), all the plates are thirteen feet wide, but the two outer ones are fifty-five feet high while the two inner are forty-eight feet.
These height differences adjust for terrain changes, as the tops of the slabs are calibrated to be exactly even with one another and roughly level with the low plateaus that, formed long ago by the sea, frame the piece to the north and the south. As you walk from east to west and back again (rendering literal the first meaning of the title), you register the line of the plates and sense the evenness of the tops.
- “Working in the desert is something I hadn’t thought I’d do,” says Serra, “and it ended up being one of the better experiences of my life. I’d never spent that much time in that vast a space, and there’s something very humbling about it.”
- The new installation follows in the footsteps of Serra’s other works, which tend to revolve around the concepts of space, weight, mass and gravity, and are comprised of steel, his material of choice.
Serra’s public art has always been driven by a desire to take sculpture off the pedestal and on to the street – which perfectly aligns with our philosophy at Qatar Museums.
To him, the content of the work derives from interaction with the viewer, meaning he always has pedestrians in mind. He acknowledges that he can’t predetermine what people will make of it.
This breathtaking sculpture in the Brouq nature reserve spans over a kilometre and comprises four steel plates, each over fourteen metres in height. To guarantee perfect alignment, Serra examined the topography of the land and beautifully enhanced the vast, desolate space in the heart of the desert. The result is spectacular and although modern, timeless.
Location: Zekreet, Doha, Qatar
Coordinates: 25.516608, 50.865067
Type: Installation, Sculpture
Materials: Weathering steel
Dimensions: 15m (49 feet) tall
Commission: Qatar Museums Authority – Al Dafna, Doha, Qatar
Artist: Richard Serra – Tribeca, New York, United States
Text Description: © Courtesy of Qatar Museums Authority, Hal Foster, Doha News
Images: © Qatar Museums Authority, Doha News, Nelson Garrido, Gine Georg Jensen, Santiago Sanz Romero, Sam Agnew, Olly Pearce, Vedran Strelar, Aamir Md. Naeem