Over 62,000 visited Damien Hirst's first exhibition in the Middle East

Hirst's largest ever retrospective generated an unprecedented number of visitors to ALRIWAQ Exhibition Space, Qatar.

Qatari schoolchildren in front of Hirst's ‘The Immortal’ (1997 - 2005) –

© Damien Hirst and Science Ltd., All rights reserved, DACS 2014

4 February 2014

Relics' closed on 22 January after three and a half months at ALRIWAQ Exhibition Space in Qatar. Since October, over 62,000 people have seen the show, making it the most visited exhibition in ALRIWAQ’s history.

The retrospective spanned 27 years of Hirst’s career, and introduced some of the artist’s most important works to a new audience in the Middle East. Alongside 'Pharmacy' (1992) and 'A Thousand Years' (1990), the two diamond skulls ('For the Love of God' (2007) and 'For Heaven's Sake' (2008)) were shown together for the first time. Hirst also chose ‘Relics’ to showcase a number of new works, including the artist's largest ever shark sculpture, 'Leviathan' (2006 - 2013): a 6.8 metre-long basking shark, acquired by the artist from the Natural History Museum in 2006, immersed in formaldehyde.

'Relics' was part of a series of cultural initiatives patronised by H. E. Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Al Thani which aim to redress the traditional boundaries between eastern and western art in the Middle East. Over the course of the exhibition, more than 5,500 schoolchildren and university students took part in Qatar Museum Authority’s education programme, attending workshops and guided tours to learn more about Damien Hirst and contemporary art. In a documentary about the staging of the show (viewable below), Jean-Paul Engelen, Director of Public Art Programs at QMA, explained that the exhibition has succeeded in, “creating a dialogue” in Qatar about the role of contemporary art.

Find out more about Hirst's current and forthcoming exhibitions here.

This 26 minute documentary – made by Oxford Film and Television and narrated by David Thewlis – tells the story of Damien Hirst’s first solo exhibition in the Middle East ('Relics', QMA, Doha: 10 October 2013 – 22 January 2014). The film charts the monumental preparations the exhibition required, and investigates a selection of the artist’s key works. It contains exclusive interviews with Damien himself, as well as key figures from the contemporary art world.

Film © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. / Qatar Museums Authority, All Rights Reserved

Artwork © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2014