doha: relics

© qatar museums authority

it's a highly prestigious showcase that befits his status as britain's best-selling contemporary artist, as well as his innate showmanship that helped him a great deal to achieve it. but it also complies wonderfully well with the global ambitions of the state of qatar, the host of the event. we're talking of course damien hirst's retrospective - mind you, it's the largest ever held - that's currently on at the al riwaq doha exhibition space [1] on doha's buzzing waterfront. this is hirst's very first show in the region, facilitated by the qatar museums authority and curated by renowned italian art critic, writer, and indeed curator, francesco bonami. entitled relics, the show presents the most comprehensive collection of hirst’s work ever assembled.

on display are pieces from his natural history series with animals preserved in transparent tanks that have been filled to the brim with formaldehyde, the spin and spot paintings, medicine cabinets, butterfly works, and for the love of god [2007] and for heaven's sake [2008], two provokingly ostentatious diamond-encrusted skulls. also featured is leviathan [2006-2013], hirst's largest formaldehyde work to date, consisting of massive shark preserved and contained in a 10-meter tank, and one of his best known works [on through jan 24]. this exhibition is part of a bigger cultural program called qatar uk 2013 which celebrates the partnership of both countries

elsewhere in the qatari capital, in front of the sidra medical and research center [2], a series of fourteen of hirst's giant bronze sculptures have been revealed. they're called the miraculous journey and narrate the various stages of fetal development, from conception to birth. vast oil and gas reserves have rendered qatar a nation of great wealth, and it boasts a per capita gdp that ranks among the highest on the planet. as part of an ambitious diversification strategy, the country has kicked off a series of initiatives that aims to establish a new economic infrastructure and create alternative sources of income. qatar has already been quite successful in promoting itself as a high-end tourist destination by staging a number of major business conferences, high-profile sporting events and prestigious cultural shows such as this retrospective. location [1]: al corniche street [doha port]. location [2]: al gharafa street [ar rayyan].

© qatar museums authority