New York-based Swiss artist Urs Fischer‘s famous giant yellow teddy bear and lamp has been installed at the recently opened Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. Our Tokyo editor Mayumi Ihara was recently there and took a few quick pix (below).
The artwork is officially titled “Untitled (Lamp/Bear),” and it’s a 23-foot tall painted bronze sculpture that weighs nearly 20 tons. It’s one of three by Fischer that have been on view throughout the world, including a five-month stint in New York City in 2011 when the work was installed in the plaza of the iconic Seagram Building on Park Avenue.
Its exhibition in Qatar is symbolic of a larger, broader trend underway the better part of the past decade in which the international art world has been establishing a firm presence in the Middle East, particularly in the wealthy Gulf states cities of Kuwait, Doha and Dubai.
We love this book of photographs by the renowned Swiss artist duo of Peter Fischli and David Weiss. “800 Views of Airports” is precisely that: A collection photos taken by Fischli and Weiss at airports visited on travels around the world throughout their decades-long career. The volume is the definition of coffee-table book. “800 Views” is textless. There are no captions, no labels, nothing to indicate where and when the photos was taken. This curatorial, editorial concision gives the hefty tome some mystique and only adds to its beauty. For the well-traveled, many of the airports may be easily identifiable — Tokyo Narita, JFK, London Heathrow, Schipol, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Malpensa — though there are a bunch of photos taken at an airfield that few would recognize, a place where de-commissioned commercial aircraft are put out to pasture.
The photos below were taken at Denpasar’s international airport in Bali, Indonesia. The more we travel, the more we’re seeing these praying rooms (sometimes called non-denominational chapels or meditation rooms) at airports around the world, especially in the west. We’ve recently seen these at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (Detroit’s gargantuan international airport) and Amsterdam Schipol airport, to name two examples.
In many parts of the globe these have always been a feature of an airport or at least have been around for a long time. The prayer room at Denpasar’s international airport, officially Ngurah Rai Airport, is signposted with an international-style sign in two languages. The context is interesting. The island of Bali is an overwhelmingly Hindu region (90%) in a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim (87%).
The praying rooms are non-denominational, not specific to a religion, and are a practical, important architectural feature that accommodates a diverse religious culture, especially in a country where the majority religion’s observant practitioners are required to pray several times a days. The signage, like much of the international standardized visual vocabulary used in airports globally, has a quickly understandable symbol of a person kneeling. No matter what your religious beliefs, the meaning is clear.