Placed on the road outside Sidra Medical and Research Centre for women and children in Ar Rayyan, Damien Hirst’s Miraculous Journey is a series of 14 bronze sculptures that depict each stage in the development of a foetus. The installation, which took three years to create, ranges between 4.8 metres (15.75 feet) and 10.7 metres (35 feet) in height and weighing between nine and 28 tonnes each. It was revealed to the public in 2013.
“Ultimately, the journey a baby goes through before birth is bigger than anything it will experience in its human life,” Hirst told artnet News through a spokesperson. “I hope the sculpture will instill in the viewer a sense of awe and wonder at this extraordinary human process, which occurs every second all across the globe.”
Works provoked controversy due to cultural differences and representation of a naked baby body, which lead to censoring the work. Shortly after the sculptures made their debut from behind large balloons, they were covered back up. Though the official reason for this was to protect them as construction continued on the Sidra Center building, it followed outcry on social media. At the time, Al-Thani defended the sculptures stating, ‘[t]o have something like this is less daring than having a lot of nudity. There is a verse in the Koran about the miracle of birth. It is not against our culture or our religion.’ Nevertheless, the sculptures were effectively censored until recent weeks.
The second unveiling of The Miraculous Journey accompanies the opening of a modern art collection in Doha. Hirst’s installation acts as the collection’s centerpiece. The Qatar Foundation, which is supported by the government, owns most of the artworks on display around the capital. Layla Ibrahim Bacha, an art specialist with the Qatar Foundation, said of the sculptures upon their second unveiling: ‘We are not expecting everyone to like them. 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. We believe it reflects very much the mission of Sidra, taking care of the healthcare of woman and babies […] 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.’
Miraculous Journey is a monumental, well thought out and beautifully executed work, which speaks out the truth, of a journey the baby has before it faces the light of day, and continues with it after its first breath. It is a monument to Life. And what can be more controversial today, than the truth?