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Story | Community
11 November 2019

Art shines a spotlight on migrant issues


The Sea is the Limit exhibition sees migration explored through artwork.

Focusing on the issues of national identity, migration and refugees, the latest edition of Qatar Foundation’s Art Trail brought art enthusiasts to an exhibition titled The Sea is the Limit, hosted at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar.

Visitors to this exhibition, which is open until December 7, saw art pieces that question the meaning of nationalism, free movement, and inclusion and exclusion. Inspired by real-life incidents and emotions, the pieces of work by the artists featured in this exhibition offered an emotive inflection to visitors.

“We all know of the phrase ‘the sky is the limit’, but why can’t we reference to the sea in a similar vein?” asked curator Varvara Shavrova as she explained the rationale behind the exhibition’s concept.

“This is a story of exploration of migrants – anyone who migrates endures some form of pain. The seas have served both to connect for trade and travel, and to disconnect, causing barriers between lands, people, and thoughts. The sea, in this case, can be seen as a metaphor signifying transition.”

The Sea is the Limit was first showcased in London in 2016, and it was around that time that the global society saw an explosion in migrant issues. However, Shavrova said the exhibition did not seek to simply capitalize on this. “Many artists were already engaged in the subject of migrant issues for many years,” she explained. “It wasn’t a new topic for them. There is no attempt to sensationalize it.”

Some of the pieces of art displayed are sail boats made with a combination of real currency notes, paper maps and travel tickets; a direct replication as a painting of a ledger of slaves; and an interactive felt blanket with printed images of Shavrova’s family members – Shavrova is one of the artists featured in her exhibition.

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“At the end of the day, we are all immigrants in one way or another,” said Shavrova, who was born in Moscow and then went to live and work in London.

Art Trail is a regular series of tours that showcase art across Qatar Foundation’s Education City, designed to inspire cultural appreciation and creativity among the nation’s community. Further tours will take place at Qatar National Library on November 16, Northwestern University in Qatar’s Media Majlis and Media Innovation Lab on November 23, and Georgetown University in Qatar on November 30.

For more details and to register, email

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