DOHA : Fourteen giant bronze sculptures by British artist Damien Hirst graphically charting the moments of conception to birth greet patients arriving at an $8 billion hospital in Gulf state Qatar.

The vast open-air installation, named  ''The Miraculous Journey'', shows a foetus growing in the womb and culminates with a 14-metre of a naked baby just after birth.

The monumental work is the centrepiece of an impressive modern art collection at the Sidra Medicine Hospital, officially opened last November in Doha, that would be the envy of many galleries around the world.

''We believe it reflects very much the mission of Sidra, taking care of the healthcare of woman and babies,'' said Lyla Ibrahim Bacha, art specialist with the government supported Qatar Foundation, which owns most of the artwork.

''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.''

Among the 65 works at the speciality facility for children's and women's health are pieces by high-profile international names and artists from from across the Arab world, including Qatar.

A fourth-floor outpatient clinic is decorated with a neon installation  entitled........ ''I Listen To The Ocean And All I Hear Is You'' by Tracey Emin, one of Hirst's ground-breaking contemporaries from Britain.

Bacha says  the art was chosen with ''very specific themes in mind.''

''They are meant to be decorative, they are meant to be more creating debate, helping with the patient to keep calm,'' she said.

Syrian artist,  Jaber al-Azmeh, whose pictures hang in the  hospital, said that it makes him ''smile'' to imagine his photographs on display in a place where new lives are starting.

Sidra began receiving its first patients in January and last month successfully conducted Qatar's first conjoined twin separation surgery.

Energy-rich Qatar has become a major buyer of contemporary art. [AFP]


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