While transiting through Hamad International Airport (HIA) this time, I saw a new huge sculpture. I was drawn at it by its huge size and a bit of comical artwork. It’s named “Small Lie.”
Airport artwork doesn’t get much bigger than at Doha’s Airport, which now boasts another giant sculpture to sit alongside the iconic 23-foot canary yellow teddy bear, weighing around 20 tonnes — Lamp Bear by a famous Swiss artist named Urs Fischer (born 1973) — sculpted from cast bronze, that sits peacefully inside a lamp. The Lamp Bear was previously displayed in front of the Seagram Building on New York’s Park Avenue. It is reported to be bought by a member of the Qatari royal family for over $6.8 million from an auction at Christie’s, New York.
There are other huge sculptures inside the airport like the copper Playground created by an American sculptor Tom Otterness (born 1952).
Small Lie, another iconic artwork by American artist KAWS is now located at HIA. KAWS is the fourth American artist joining HIA’s Art Programme. It is the first time that one of KAWS’ pieces is exhibited in an airport.
Brian Donnelly (born 1974), better known as KAWS, spent the first year of his career as an animator for Disney. After leaving in 1997, KAWS took inspiration from the company’s signature cartoon, Mickey Mouse, to create his own set of characters that he named Companions.
With gloved hands and X’s for eyes, “Companions” first appeared in KAWS’s graffiti works across New York City in the late 1990s.
By the end of the decade, the street artist created his first three-dimensional version, and his characters have since taken on a variety of colors, sizes, and poses.
His monumental structures have been shown in prestigious locations including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the UK and the Brooklyn Museum in New York. In 2017, his four-foot-tall Seated Companion (2011) broke the auction record for the series, selling for $411,000.
Among KAWS’s signature “Companion,” Small Lie has the most childlike charm. Clad in overall shorts, the Pinocchio-inspired figure bows its head in shame as if hiding from a parent after getting in trouble. KAWS debuted the character at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the U.K. in 2016, presenting a 15 tonnes, 32-foot-tall version made of African hardwood, called Afrormosia (Pericopsis elata) wood. Afrormosia closely resembles teak and is so often used as a teak substitute that it is sometimes referred to as African teak.
The inspiration behind Small Lie comes from the artist’s relationship to wooden toys growing up and the warm sensation of the wood grain. Expanding on this, he created an oversized sculpture that plays with an emotional tension of strength and kindness. Small Lie makes the viewer feel small but also want to protect it and console it.