Richard Serra Sculpture in Qatari Desert Defaced Again
By Lauren Long
Qatari authorities have apprehended an unspecified number of individuals for vandalizing American artist Richard Serra’s monumental sculpture East-West/West-East (2014), located in Qatar’s western desert. The Qatari royal commission, composed of four approximately 14-meter-high steel planks, has been defaced numerous times since it was erected in the Brouq Nature Reserve in 2014.
According to a January 7 Instagram post by Qatar Museums, which oversees the country’s public art, the latest incident took place on December 28, 2020. While further details of the recent vandalism have not been disclosed, Qatari Museums had reported “significant and deliberate damage” to Serra’s work in March 2020. The rectangular plates, installed in a linear fashion over a one-kilometer range, bore scratches and graffiti voicing national pride or resistance to regional sanctions, as stated in The Art Newspaper. In November 2020, the government organization announced that it had started to clean the metal surfaces, and that an anti-vandalism campaign to increase public awareness about sharing responsibilities of preserving public art had been launched in September. The organization’s acting director, Abdulrahman Al Ishaq, told the Gulf Times in early December that Qatar Museums was also looking to install a surveillance system in the area.
In their statement on the latest attack, Qatar Museums affirmed that the case had been “referred to Public Prosecution for the necessary legal action to be taken against them. Vandalism of all kinds is a crime punishable by law.”
East-West/West-East was meant to oxidize from a blue-gray color to a dark amber over time like the artist’s other outdoor works, but this oxidization was removed during the November clean-up. Serra has another public work in Qatar, commissioned by Qatar Museums for Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art. Titled 7 (2011), the 25-meter-high cluster of seven steel plates references the numeral’s spiritual significance in Islam, and is Serra’s tallest work to date.
Lauren Long is ArtAsiaPacific’s news and web editor.
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