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Damien Hirst’s giant sculptures of the development of the unborn baby are still on display in Qatar a decade later

The giant sculptures of the development of the unborn human revealed by English artist, Damien Hirst, a decade ago, are still on display in Qatar’s capital Doha. His 14 bronze sculptures tower up to 46 feet and show, in stunning anatomical detail, the development of an unborn baby boy from conception to birth. 

Commissioned by Sheikha al Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority, Hirst’s sculptures are displayed boldly in front of the Sidra Medical and Research Center, a facility in Qatar specialising in women and children’s health. 

The artworks can be seen from the desert and the motorway and weigh a total of 216 tonnes. 

‘The Miraculous Journey’ 

Hirst called the installation ‘The Miraculous Journey’. When asked about his inspiration for the sculptures, he said he became interested in exploring this area more after having children of his own. The father of three explained “Everyone talks about our life’s journey, but we have a whole journey before you’re born”.

The first of the 14 sculptures shows the moment of conception as the sperm fertilises the egg. Each sculpture shows the unborn baby at a different level of development, with one depicting twins in the womb. 

As the sculptures were unveiled, the sound of a beating heart was amplified so that onlookers, including members of Qatar’s royal family, could hear a heartbeat as they saw for the first time this grand depiction of new life. 

The role of art in provoking reflection

Hirst also emphasised that “For the education of everybody, it’s a great thing to say look this is real… this is how it works”. One art specialist noted the appropriateness of the statues, arguing “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”. 

Another British artist, Tracey Emin, has used her artwork to provoke reflection about unborn babies. The memory of Emin’s unborn children whose lives were ended by abortion comes up throughout the years in her artwork. Her 1997 work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963 – 1995, includes her two aborted children. Her autobiographical video of the same year also explores her abortions. In a 2011 exhibition, she displays textile work called The first time I was pregnant I started to crochet the baby a shawl, 1998-2004, recognising the lives that were growing inside her. 

The value of life before birth

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “These stunning sculptures are a striking visual reminder of the beauty of life before birth. The series of sculptures and the title of the work emphasise the continuous journey of life from the moment of conception to birth and beyond. They underline how each of us seeing and reading about these works of art began our own miraculous journeys in the same way: with a sperm fertilising an egg”. 

“The anatomical accuracy of the sculptures shows us the humanity of the unborn baby and celebrates the value of life before birth. We need more works of art that spark conversation about life before birth and remind us of the amazing journey that we have all taken from the moment we were created at conception”. 

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