The Irresistible Creepiness Of Urs Fischer’s Lamp Bear
The first thing you’ll notice after clearing immigration in the recently-opened Hamad International Airport in Doha is Lamp Bear, a 23-foot (7m) high canary yellow bronze sculpture that takes pride of place in the center of the massive duty-free hall.
Tipping the scales at about 35,000 pounds (15,875 kg), it was bought at a Christie’s auction last year by a member of the Qatari royal family for a cool $6.8 million (€6 million) and placed here, according to rumors that will never be substantiated, because the contemporary art-hoarding Al-Thani family simply didn’t have room for it elsewhere.
It’s a playful piece that humanises the space around it and reminds travellers of childhood or precious objects from home.
Christie’s meanwhile describes the piece as one that
brightly celebrates the objects that define a young child’s life. Fischer realized this striking sculpture on a monumental scale, combining a canary yellow teddy bear, everyone’s cherished childhood keepsake, with a bedroom desk lamp. The lamp neatly bisects the bear, casting a shadow over its face, while a forlorn black button eye peers out from underneath. The bear’s inanimate body flops forward, lovingly care worn, resting against the support of the lamp stand.
Its creepiness has also terrified small children who refuse to go near it.
For the record, the official title given by its creator, the New York-based artist Urs Fischer, is “Untitled (Lamp/Bear),” and is one of a series of three by the Swiss sculptor that have been on display around the world in recent years, including a five-month stint in 2011 in front of the Seagram Building on New York’s Park Avenue. Here’s a Christie’s video of that Park Avenue installation and an interesting write up in Art In America by Adam Lindemann, who owns one of the three; his sits on a beach facing the ocean behind his house in Montauk on New York’s Long Island.
Its mildly sinister appearance aside, the piece fits the massive high-ceilinged setting, adding a double dose of bright color to the area’s otherwise dark and stony futuristic tones. I imagined a mechanical version, slowly rising from the lamp and swinging from the palm trees that stand behind it.
Maybe that’s in the works for the airport’s next phase.
After several costly delays, the $16 billion airport finally opened for service on 27 May 2014, one month after a ceremonial first flight. With an initial annual capacity of 29 million passengers —three times the previous volume— Hamad International Airport (DOH) has the space, capacity and infrastructure to up that figure to 50 million when all construction phases are completed.