Qatar’s Arab Museum of Modern Art opens in December

September 30, 2010

Mathaf, a museum dedicated to showcasing modern and contemporary Arab art from the 1840s to today will open in Doha on December 30.

Conceived as a gathering place where questions are asked, ideas are explored and creativity is fostered, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art will present exhibitions and programmes that explore modern Arab art. 

The collection of more than 6,000 works represents major trends and sites of production of modern Arab art from the 1840s to the present.

“In addition to its collection and special exhibitions, Mathaf’s onsite and online programmes will reinforce its role as a centre for global dialogue, research and scholarship,” a spokesman said. “Through these activities, which are designed to engage artists, writers, students, scholars and the widest possible public audience, Mathaf will contribute to the cultural landscape of the Gulf region, the Middle East and the Arab diaspora.”

The museum will temporarily occupy a former school building in the Education City, which was re-designed for Mathaf by French architect Jean-François Bodin.  Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) will determine its plans for the construction of a future, permanent home for the museum at a later date.

Shaikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, QMA chairperson, will oversee the establishment and opening of Mathaf, Qatari dailies reported.

“When QMA opened the Museum of Islamic Art, we made Qatar the place to see and appreciate the greatest treasures of a vast and vital heritage, which spans centuries and cultures,” Shaikha Al Mayassa said.

“Now, with the opening of Mathaf, we make Qatar the place to see, explore and discuss the creations of Arab artists of the modern era and our own time. As we reveal this body of exciting, important but previously little-seen artworks, we demonstrate that the world can continue to look to Qatar for new possibilities and surprising experiences,” she said.

According to Shaikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Than, QMA’s vice chairperson, “Arab artists are now receiving unprecedented visibility and support, in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.”

“By making public a century’s worth of distinctive artworks, Mathaf will deepen the conversation about Arab art and help advance the creativity of the Arab world.”

Mathaf will open with Sajjil, an exhibition of highlights from the collection, featuring works by more than 100 artists and representing pivotal experiments in aesthetics. Sajjil, the Arabic word for recording, initiates a space in which various narratives can be articulated in an effort to allow Arab modern art its historical place within a wider tradition of art history.

The inaugural exhibition and programmes will be housed in a 5,500sq m facility that includes galleries on two floors, a cafe, a museum shop, a research library and an education wing.

In addition to the inaugural exhibition featuring works from the collection, Mathaf will present two special opening exhibitions in a new temporary exhibition space located on the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art.

“Interventions”, on view from December 30 to May 28, 2011, curated by Dr Nada Shabout, celebrates the work and artistic development of five major modern Arab artists, who were instrumental in introducing and negotiating modernism in the Arab world, and remain productive and influential today. “Interventions” features works from Mathaf’s permanent collection alongside a newly commissioned work by each artist.

“Told/Untold/Retold”, on view from December 30, to May 28, 2011 curated by Sam Bardouil and Till Fellrath, features newly commissioned work by 23 contemporary artists with roots in the Arab world.

Through the central theme of storytelling, the exhibition attests to art not as a finished product for contemplation but as a site of navigation to be explored.

“Told/Untold/Retold” will be the first large-scale contemporary art exhibition in Doha.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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