Richard Serra’s “East-West/West-East”

Richard Serra, voted the third greatest living artist in a Vanity Fair poll, recently unveiled his newest sculpture in Qatar. Serra’s “East-West/West-East” uses Qatar’s geographical position and topography to create a stunning sculpture that brings to mind the iconic scenes from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The mesmerizing sculpture is located in Qatar’s Brouq nature reserveand spans a distance of one kilometer. The sculpture is comprised of four 45-feet steel plates linearly aligned in the desert scene. Richard Serra used topographical techniques to perfectly align the plates to maximize the sculptures visual effect. The four steel plates were constructed in Germany before being shipped and placed by crane within the desert.

Serra believes that sculptures should not be placed in a museum but in public places, as the significance of his art fundamentally depends on the viewers interactions with each particular piece. Serra stated that his art is driven by the desire to “take sculpture off the pedestal and into the street.”

Speaking to New Yorker, Serra praised the opportunity granted to him by Qatar Museums headed by the sister of the Qatari Emir, Sheikha Al-Mayassa bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

The location of the sculpture was specifically suggested by Qatar’s Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who remembered the location from his youth. Serra stated that when he visited the Father Emir, “He was very touched by the fact—I could see it in his eye—he was moved by the fact that I had chosen the place.”

 Serra went on to comment on the significance of the piece in relation to its geographical setting. He commented to the English newspaper, The Independent, that it brings the magnitude of the setting into focus. He stated, “Before, there was no way of discerning where anything was in relation to where you were, because you had no point of reference. What that piece does is give you a point of reference in relationship to a line, and your upstanding relationship to a vertical plane and infinity, and a perspectival relationship to a context – and pulls that context together. It makes it graspable. That’s actually a place out there now, and there certainly wasn’t one before. We did that simply by putting up four plates.”

 He went on to state that, “I think [Qatar] is trying to jump centuries, and that’s a hard game. But it’s a phenomenon, there’s nothing quite like it.”