On Friday we ventured out of Doha for the first time. We were at lunch after church with a group, anticipating a quiet evening in, when Von, one of our new friends, suggested an outing to see some new sculptures by American sculptor Richard Serra which are somewhere out in the desert. I had read about them before coming here, but had no idea where they were.
Von and another friend, Steve, Keith and I headed off in Steve’s car to find the sculptures. Von had a rough idea where they were, but I certainly did not realise we were about to cross the country from the east coast to the west. It brought home what a small country this is, when we reached the other side of the country in around 45 minutes! Most of the journey was on well-made roads, but as we got closer and passed through the tiny village of Zekreet, Von pointed vaguely across the desert and we left the road. I was very glad Steve was driving, and that he had an all-wheel drive SUV! The terrain was flat and mostly firm, but rocky and quite bumpy.
We were hoping for some signposts to the sculptures, but found ourselves scanning the horizon for a sighting of the art works. Since they consist of 4 huge steel monoliths stuck in the sand, how hard could they be to spot? But the desert is a big place, and though these massive steel plates tower over humans they are minuscule in the desert landscape. Finally Keith spotted what he thought might be some vertical black spikes in the distance, and Steve headed in their direction in hope. As we got closer we saw that we had in fact found our goal. They were really quite amazing.
The towering steel plates rise to 14.7 meters and 16.7 meters above the ground, the tops lining up with each other and also with the gypsum plateaus on either side. Despite the huge distance that the plates are spaced— over a kilometre from one end to the other — all four metal pillars can be viewed and explored from any point within the landscape. We all did our best to photograph them from all possible angles, getting them all in a line, climbing up sandy peaks to get a better view, and of course posing in front of them. It was disappointing to see graffiti on a couple of the plates. Some people seem determined to make their mark wherever they go.
Eventually we decided to head back before it got dark as we still had to find our way back across the rough terrain to the village and the sealed road. There are two other exhibitions of Richard Serra sculptures in galleries in Doha, one of which closes next weekend, so we will make sure we get to see that next.