Outdoor sculptures and a sports history museum provide a cultural backdrop to the Qatar World Cup
The Qatar World Cup is just weeks away and more than a million visitors are expected to attend the tournament.
To welcome the supporters, an exhibition dedicated to football was inaugurated in one of the largest sports museums in the world. Meanwhile, on the streets of Doha, outdoor sculptures provide an artistic backdrop to the sporting competition.
One of the largest sports museums in the world
The 3-2-1 Olympic and Sports Museum in Qatar features a wide variety of sporting memorabilia, from boxing gloves worn by Muhammad Ali to racing legend Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. And thinking of the FIFA World Cup, he inaugurated a new exhibition: “World of Football”.
The exhibits are presented in two parts to represent a game played in two halves. It begins by looking at the overall appeal of the beautiful game, from the streets to the stadium.
“In the first half, we have the origins,” explains Andrew Pearce, curator of the World of Football exhibition. “We have the ‘Who’s playing? “We have the laws, we also have stories about some of the greatest players in the game, including some of their shirts, which is pretty exciting. We’ve got some great World Cup movies and action. We have a section about fans and how fans support their team. And also a bit about what makes this game so popular around the world. “
The second half of the exhibition traces the path taken by Qatar to host the World Cup.
“The Road to Doha section really explains the making of the 2022 World Cup,” says the museum’s exhibitions manager, Aalia Khalid Al Khater. “But it starts from 1930 which is the first World Cup in Uruguay. So from there we have the section which is dedicated to showcasing at least two objects from each World Cup from 1930 to 2018 and then obviously every poster from 1930 to 2022. So it’s going to be interesting. You can see the evolution of the World Cup in terms of graphic design, in terms of little things like tickets, posters. And then we go into the story of football in Qatar has around 40 years of football history in Doha with some exciting highlights including when Pele traveled to Doha in 1973 and played against Doha’s oldest football club Al-Ahli .
Aalia Khalid Al Khater vividly remembers the moment Qatar won the bid to host the World Cup.
“I was actually in my senior year of high school when we won the tender,” she says. “So it’s interesting now to be at the head of the sports museum exhibits and experience it first-hand, to host the World Cup. It’s so exciting, it was the most exciting feeling. exciting. I think everyone, not just Qataris but everyone who lives here, has this sense of loyalty to the country and we are delighted to be the first country in the Middle East to host the World Cup.”
The 321 Museum opened its doors earlier this year. As part of its permanent collection, the museum has 16,000 sports-related objects and has lent another 3,000 pieces. “The Hall of Athletes” is a celebration of 90 athletes from around the world, representing a number of international sports.
“Athletes tell their stories and they inspire visitors and we are really happy to see all the young generation,” said museum director Abdulla Yousuf Al Mulla. “They visit the museum and they hope that one day they will go to this museum in the athletes’ hall.
Abdulla Yousuf Al Mulla says what makes it particularly inspiring is that sport in Qatar began with humble beginnings: from traditional games like falconry, pearl fishing and camel racing to hosting sports competitions international events such as the World Cup.
“This museum is not just for Qatar,” he says. “It’s based in Qatar, but it’s actually for the whole Arab world. It’s the first in the Middle East. In terms of space, we have 19,000 square meters and that attracts a lot of people from outside of Qatar.”
The History in the Making section of the exhibit will continue to grow as new historical milestones are recorded.
“We’re actually going to collect artifacts as the World Cup progresses,” says Pearce. “So we don’t know yet what those stories are. Every World Cup tells stories. It might be a particular red card from a particular referee. It might be the ball from a game in which the biggest goal in this tournament has been marked. . It could be a jersey, it could even be a bit of fan memorabilia that a fan has brought to the stadium. That’s what’s exciting.
“Collections like this are hard to find anywhere in the world,” says Al Mulla. “And here it comes under one roof. You have them all here. It makes me proud of my country.”
The 321 Museum received 98,000 visitors in its first four months of operation and is aiming for half a million visitors by the end of the World Cup.
The art of inspiring, educating and enlightening
The best art is immersive. It can inspire, educate – maybe even enlighten us. But there aren’t too many places in the world where art is accessible to everyone. Qatar is trying to change that. Ahead of the World Cup tournament, the country doubled down on its commitment to public art.
As soon as you arrive at Hamad International Airport, there is art to see.
Whether it’s the oversized KAWS sculpture, Tom Claasen’s falcon – Qatar’s national bird – or even the instantly recognizable yellow bear, it’s clear that in 2022 Qatar invites you to take take part in an artistic conversation.
“I think it’s something that resonates with a lot of us,” says Sarah Foryame Lawler, curatorial planning manager at Qatar Museums’ Public Art Department. “And a lot of that means you can just interact with it, you can experience it, and it’s about having your own interpretation. So I think for Qatar and the arts, I think it’s is a great way to encourage dialogue. It’s a great way to activate different parts of the city and activate areas of the city that don’t necessarily have arts. Where do you bring that in and allow people to s easily engage with this.
And this dialogue extends far beyond the airport. Public works of art in classic venues like the National Museum bring the country’s history to life.
“On Their Way” by French artist Roch Vandromme, four camels nestled in the shade of the desert rose, evokes a historic nomadic way of life.
Simone Fattal’s “Gateways to the Sea” – with its petroglyphs of boats and fish – refer to the nation’s close relationship with the ocean.
Some works of art are designed to be functional while others simply light up a busy street. And, with the World Cup in mind, sculptures have been placed in Qatar’s iconic football stadiums.
The ship, by Qatari artist Faraj Daham, is 10 meters high. Located at the Al Janoub stadium, whose shape is inspired by traditional dhows, it is another reminder of the connection with the sea.
A stadium that is a work of art in itself
And the latticework facade of the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium is a work of art in itself.
“So the design choices spoke to the theme of the region,” says Mario Zraunig, operations manager at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. “So it’s close to the desert. And the symbols for the facade of the mesh were selected from that region. So you have the desert rose, you have the native flora and fauna, which represents a symbol. You have the shield , which represents the strength of the region. All of these symbols have a very distinct and specific meaning for that region, and this will be the stadium design language for the region.
The stadium was rebuilt for the Qatar 2022 World Cup using 80% of the materials from the deconstruction of the former Ahmed Bin Ali stadium. Leftover materials were recycled and reused in public art installations on display around the country during the tournament.
“The steel structures were used for public art,” Zraunig explains. “So the artists selected all the materials for the stadium. They integrated into their art projects those that are available in Qatar, and you can still see the stadium as part of their future art.”
Layla Bacha, art specialist for the Qatar Foundation, stands in front of another specially commissioned piece for the World Cup: Come Together, designed to be seen by fans visiting the Education City Stadium, it was created by l Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa.
“The artist was invited to come to Qatar two years ago, just before COVID,” says Layla Ibrahim Bacha, Senior Art Specialist at the Qatar Foundation. “And it was inspired by Qatar in general. So the shape looks like a dandelion and is made of specifically 100 legs. And those legs are made of soccer balls. Very colorful. his visual identity to use recycled materials, he chose to recycle Qatari kitchen utensils and add them to this work.
The entire Education City campus is full of unexpected works of art. But it’s not just international artists.
Azzm by Qatari artist Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed Al Thani focuses on empowering women.
And on the Lusail side, there is a surprising piece Egal by Shouq Al Mana. It represents the traditional headgear – worn by Qatari men – on a grand scale.
“I’ve worked with her for over two years now,” Lawler says. “And it was a great experience to see a local artist turn something out of paper into a sculpture that people can experience. People can walk around. People can touch too. I think that makes a lot of people wonder what that’s if they’re not quite familiar with the culture. And that’s really the essence of public arts. It’s about encouraging dialogue, getting people to question, reflect and to be curious about what the work is.
Whether in the metro, on a public roundabout or in the middle of the desert, more than 100 works of public art will be scattered throughout the country before the kick-off of the World Cup, inscribing art in the everyday life.