Pregnant women in Qatar can no longer hide what’s growing beneath their abayas.
On Monday, in front of the newly-constructed Sidra Medical and Research Center, residents of the tiny Middle Eastern nation, including members of the royal family, watched as 14 giant, mysterious balloons blossomed to reveal a series of bronze sculptures by British artist Damien Hirst that chronicle a baby’s gestation inside the uterus, from conception to birth.
The sculptures, aptly named “The Miraculous Journey,” are said to have cost $20 million, and are somewhat provocative in a country where even the representation of the human form is often taboo. The final sculpture—a 46-foot-tall anatomically correct baby boy—is especially provocative.
But Sheikha al Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, 30, commissioner and chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority, stands ready to defend the public display.
“To have something like this is less daring than having a lot of nudity,” she told The New York Times on Monday morning in her office at the Museum of Islamic Art. “There is a verse in the Koran about the miracle of birth. It is not against our culture or our religion.”
Hirst, known worldwide for his bold and sometimes offensive subject matter, said he became captivated with childbirth after becoming a father. “Everyone talks about our life’s journey, but we have a whole journey before you’re born,” he told the Times.
True to life, Hirst’s bronze baby had his own idea in mind of when he wanted to make his debut. A few days before the scheduled reveal, the wind picked up and uncovered the statue.
Sheikha al Mayassa sent a clever email to Hirst: “Your baby appears to want to come early.”
Watch a video of the sculptures' unveiling.