Qatar Museums Authority Open MIA Park

On December 15, in the presence of His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and more than 700 dignitaries and special guests, Qatar Museums Authority inaugurated the MIA Park, a new cultural destination on Doha’s Corniche. The inaugural ceremony included remarks by Qatar Museums Authority Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani and master sculptor Richard Serra, and Hughes de Courson’s The Magic Lutes was performed by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in a temporary concert shell, inspired by the nearby Museum of Islamic Art designed by I.M. Pei. A dramatic light show herald the presentation, with guests seated facing Doha Bay to allow scenic views of MIA Park and the city’s skyline.

MIA Park is a new 62-acre (25-hectare) public space set to transform the waterfront of Doha, Qatar. Developed by Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) and located on the grounds of the acclaimed MIA, the Park includes a sculpture plaza featuring a newly commissioned work by Richard Serra titled 7, the artist’s first public work in the Middle East.

Free to the public, MIA Park will open in early January 2012 with a community-wide celebration, including: horseback riding, traditional Qatari folkdance and many other family activities throughout the park. The opening event also will feature live musical performances by jazz groups and local bands, as well as food tastings at the Park’s cafés and kiosks.

“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.”

Designed by Pei Partnership Architects (New York), the crescent-shaped MIA Park curves from the MIA into Doha Bay. C.C. Pei, Partner, Pei Partnership Architects remarked, “Our mission was to work with Richard Serra to create a dramatic siting for his monumental sculpture. At the same time we are setting the stage for a much larger park that will contain additional commissioned art pieces. Following Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani ‘s directive, the new park will invite the citizens of Doha to interact with contemporary and other creative arts. At the same time, the new park will complement and enhance the Museum of Islamic Art designed by my father.”

The Park includes approximately one mile (2 kilometers) of lighted pedestrian stone pathways and a formal 2,600-foot (800-meter) palm ringed cove promenade connecting the MIA to a 12-acre (5-hectare) man-made peninsula of geometrically shaped abstracted dunes unveiling panoramic views of the West Bay. Jetting out into Doha Bay is a pier specially created to support Serra’s 7. The nearly 200-foot-long (60-meter-long), 79-foot-wide (24-meter-wide) sculpture plaza on the pier is clad in honed Shanxi Black granite surrounded by water with an elegant set of stairs that rise up from the water’s edge on the south side of the plaza, facing the MIA.

Composed of seven steel plates that are 80 feet (24 meters) high, 8 feet (2.4 meters) wide and 4 inches (10 cm) thick, 7 is Serra’s tallest vertical sculpture to date. The sculpture is 10 feet (3 meters) wide at the bottom and nine feet (2.7 meters) wide at the top.

“H. E. Sheikha Al Mayassa always said that the MIA Park should be a place where all the peoples and families of Qatar could come to meet and relax,” stated Richard Serra. “I decided to extend the arc of the park with a pier further out into the water. I wanted to link the cultural content of the museum to the social context of the park by placing the sculpture in relation to the Museum at the end of the pier. The openings of the sculpture are on axis with the museum so that as you step inside the sculpture, the museum seems to be drawn into its internal space. From afar the sculpture acts as a beacon encouraging people to walk through the park and out onto the pier. I hope that the sculpture will become a destination point and the park and pier a public gathering place for all those who work and live in the city. I titled the sculpture 7; just the numeral, not the word. The sculpture is made of seven plates of steel, which form a seven-sided shape on the ground with three triangular openings and a seven-sided aperture at the top. The title, 7, simply reiterates the construction and plan of the sculpture. But the number 7, as I have subsequently learned, also has great significance in Islamic religion and science. It is my understanding that there are many references in the Qur’an to the number 7. The number 7 is also central to an important discovery by the great 10th-century Persian mathematician and astronomer Abu Sahl al-Quhi. Archimedes had introduced the concept of a regular heptagon into geometry but it had remained unexplored for centuries. It was Abu Sahl who proved that a regular heptagon could be constructed into a form.”

MIA Park also features a children’s area with an interactive playground and a small cove created in Doha Bay for water activities. Two cafés and a kiosk will offer food, souvenirs and gift items. The Park will be furnished with outdoor furniture designed by Kettal, B+B Italia and Morosso. Visitors also will enjoy complimentary WiFi access throughout the park and interactive digital signage will be available with information on various activities taking place around Doha. Year-round public activities at MIA Park will include film screenings, sports events, storytelling programs and art workshops. Details on an upcoming Film Series in February 2012 will be announced shortly. MIA Park will be developed in phases, with additional elements and amenities to be announced in the future.

Richard Serra
Richard Serra is one of the most significant artists of his generation. His groundbreaking sculpture explores the exchange between artwork, site, and viewer. He has produced large-scale, site-specific sculptures for architectural, urban, and landscape settings spanning the globe, from Iceland to New Zealand. In addition to “Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective,” which started at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2011, is currently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and ends at the Menil Collection in Houston in 2012, other major recent projects include: Promenade, a course of five steel sculptural elements towering seventeen meters, for MONUMENTA at the Grand Palais in Paris (2008); “Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years” at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007); and the eight-part permanent installation The Matter of Time at the Guggenheim Bilbao (2005). Serra was born in 1939 in San Francisco. While working in steel mills to support himself, he attended the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Barbara from 1957 to 1961, receiving a BA in English literature. He then studied as a painter at Yale University, New Haven, from 1961 to 1964, completing his BFA and MFA there. In 1964 and 1965 Serra received a Yale Traveling Fellowship and traveled to Paris, and he spent much of the following year in Florence on a Fulbright grant, traveling throughout southern Europe, Turkey and northern Africa.

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