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Richard Serra’s Monumental Public Art Work In The Qatari Desert, East-West/West-East

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“I consider space to be a material. The articulation of space has come to take precedence over other concerns. I attempt to use sculptural form to make space distinct”, explained famed American minimalist artist Richard Serra when asked about his work in 1998.

Such conceptual manipulation of space is nowhere more evident than in his recent work ‘East-West/West-East’ (2014); a public art piece that stands in the midst of the Qatari desert. There are no roads to get to this site, no maps, and no signs. There is only a GPS location that reads N25o 31.019’E050o51.948’ to help visitors find their way. There, between the gypsum plateaus of the Brouq Nature Reserve, stand four monumental steel plates in a straight line. Each piece of rolled steel is 10 cm thick, and measures between 14.7 to 16.7 meters in height. The top of the four plates are level; and positioned at equal intervals over one kilometer, they offer a visual center point to an otherwise vast and empty desert-scape.

“Before, there was no way of discerning where anything was in relation to where you were, because you had no point of reference”, explained Serra in an interview with Sholto Byrnes for the Independent. “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 personal 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.”

“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”
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All images © Nelson Garrido