A series of enormous sculptures created by acclaimed British artist Damien Hirst have been unveiled outside Qatar’s new $8 billion hospital. The pieces, erected beside the Sidra medicine hospital in Doha, show the development of an unborn baby from conception to birth.
“The Miraculous Journey” depicts a fetus growing in the womb, before the series comes to fruition in the form of a 14-meter (46-foot) newborn baby. The astonishing sculptures, which have been covered up since their initial unveiling in 2013, have sparked controversy across the Muslim-majority nation.
Damien Hirst uterus sculptures greet hospital guests in Doha pic.twitter.com/SRyW8cGQUR
— Eric The Red (@millerman14) November 19, 2018
“You know culturally, it’s the first naked sculpture in the Middle East… It’s very brave,” Hirst said of his work, according to Doha News. “I suppose the cultural differences are a bit difficult. You know in England, there wouldn’t be a problem with a naked baby, you see the embryo and the egg and sperm.”
Concerned about the potential fallout, officials reportedly rushed to arrange for a young boy to recite a passage out of the Koran which addresses the formation of life.
“We are not expecting everyone to like them,” said Qatari art specialist Layla Ibrahim Bacha, according to the Guardian. “We are not expecting everyone to understand them. This is why they are there to actually create this element of debate, this element of thinking.”
Despite reservations from some, Bacha said that the art installation perfectly reflects the hospital’s mission to provide women and children with a high standard of care.
“I think it’s perfect for the location, as you can see a lot of people are taking pictures, I think it’s becoming iconic,” she added.
Hirst has become well-known for his thought-provoking sculptural pieces.
“Hirst’s work investigates and challenges contemporary belief systems, and dissects the tensions and uncertainties at the heart of human experience,” reads his biography.
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“Art’s about life and it can’t really be about anything else,” he notes on his website. “There isn’t anything else.”