Pro-life campaigners have welcomed a new work in the Qatari capital Doha, by the controversial artist Damien Hirst, entitied: 'The Miraculous Journey' , which depict the development of a human being from the fertilisation of an egg to a fully-formed baby. The 14 huge bronze statues were unveiled for a day on 8 October, outside the Sidra Medical and Research Centre, still under construction, on the outskirts of the city. They were covered again until 14 January, to "protect them while work is ongoing" in the area, the Qatar Museums Authority explained.
The installation, which took three years to complete, consists of 14 figures, ranging between 4.8 metres (15.75 feet) and 10.7 metres (35 feet) in height and weighing between nine and 28 tonnes each.
The project is an initiative by Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani, the Emir's sister who heads the museum authority.
Hirst explains on his website, that the work came from: “a desire to create something monumental, whilst essentially human.” The work addresses some of the artist’s most enduring concerns and is simultaneously a celebration of life, and an exploration of the difficulties inherent in trying to express the profundities of our existences. Hirst states: “Ultimately, the journey a baby goes through before birth is bigger than anything it will experience in its human life. I hope the sculpture will instill in the viewer a sense of awe and wonder at this extraordinary human process, which will soon be occurring in the Sidra Medical Center, as well as every second all across the globe.”
In the same week, Damien Hirst's first exhibition in the Middle East opened in the city. Entitled 'Relics', it runs until 22 January. The exhibition showcases Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull, 'For the Love of God', as well as a shark preserved in formaldehyde.
Praising the work, Canadian Catholic blogger Lou Iacobelli writes: "Whether the artist intended it or not, and I believe he did, the sculptures take a pro-life view. Consider the last piece which is a huge sculpture of the born baby. Visually it says that we cannot hide this human life away and destroy it. The towering bronze baby is too large, too powerful and too beautiful to simply disregard and discard.... Would any medical centre in the west have had the courage to commission and then install these sculptures publicly for all to see and experience? Would the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, or any of our major Canadian hospitals and government institutions even consider bringing this installation to Canada? Would they commission such an ambitious project promoting human life?
Anthony Ozimic, communications manager of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), commented: "We congratulate the Qatari authorities on their eye-catching public initiative. It is wonderful that a popular artist has replicated on a large scale the same kind of foetal models which SPUC and other pro-life groups have been using in schools and elsewhere for many decades. Educating the public about the wonderful reality of human development from conception through to birth is a vital means of saving unborn children. We were all unborn children once, so when we look at these models, we see ourselves. We hope that these models will help dissuade women from seeking abortion and will led to improved support for pregnant women, especially in unplanned or crisis pregnancies."
Abortion is illegal in Qatar. Extra-marital sex and adultery are against the law and giving birth to an illegitimate baby results in a 12-month jail sentence. Doha News reports that on average about 100 foreign women are arrested and jailed each year for giving birth. They are allowed to keep their babies with them up to the age of two. The paper reports that they can be spared a prison sentence if their boyfriend promises to marry them.
For more information see:
Damien Hirst www.damienhirst.com/