Qatar tells its rich history through modern art

The arrival of the 2022 World Cup has given Qatar momentum to launch a whole new arts and culture agenda, with museums being built and exhibitions springing up all over the country.

Everything is placed under the banner “Qatar Creates”which clearly sets out the country’s intention: to consolidate its role as a cultural center in the region.

While all eyes are on Qatar during the World Cup, the Gulf state also wants to share the spotlight with countries in the MENASA region, which includes the Middle East, North Africa and South Africa. ‘South Asia.

Mathaf: a new look at modern and contemporary Arab art

We are right in the middle of the FIFA World Cup and for many visitors one of the non-football attractions is the new exhibits at the museum Mathaf. A short walk from the Education City stadium, this Arab museum of modern art recently unveiled four contemporary exhibits.

The exhibition of the Palestinian artist Taysir Batniji titled “No Conditions Are Permanent” is dedicated to the 25 years of his career, heavily influenced by his own struggles and personal experience.

“When you look from afar, you only see a white paper. But when you get closer, you can see shapes, people, drawings and engravings made by hand. In fact, they are photos of the wedding from my brother”, explains Taysir Batniji.

The Palestinian artist says that the death of his brother in 1987, at the start of the demonstrations of the first Intifada in the West Bank and only two years after his marriage, affected him deeply.

“This notion of disappearance has deeply marked my work, like other concepts such as displacement, identity and memory. Because all these notions are drawn from my life experience as a Palestinian. So, I think that like all artist in the world, you find your “inspiration”, or you try to integrate in your work, the context in which you live or which you are confronted with”, confides the Palestinian artist who has put part of his life into his works.

“He used a lot of very poetic installations that try to tell the absurdity of the situation for someone who, like him, is continually trying to return to Palestine without succeeding,” explains Zeina Arida, director of the Mathaf museum.

Paying homage to “invisible work”

Through these four very different new exhibitions, the idea is above all to show that there is not just one Arab voice or perspective.

As such, Sophia Al-Maria’s journey up to her first exhibition at the Mathaf Museum is very interesting. The American-Qatari artist worked in this museum from 2007 to 2011 and she returns there as an exhibition curator.

“It’s completely surreal to have worked in an institution, where I didn’t consider myself an artist and where no one saw me as an artist. And then, to come back to it more than ten years later with an exhibition. is like a dream”, says Sophia Al-Maria.

“Invisible Works, Dream Therapy” is Al-Maria’s first solo exhibition in a museum in the Middle East. The artist wants to highlight the essential work of “invisible” people

“With this exhibition, I want to highlight the work that is often invisible behind artistic creation, but also the work that is often invisible in hotels or in the various municipal projects that are constantly developing in all cities of the world” , said Sophia Al-Maria.

The Arts Association

The third exhibition is called “A Tiger or Another”here curators Tom Eccles and Mark Rappolt have succeeded in associating historical objects with contemporary art.

This project is part of Mathaf’s new initiative called Rubaiyat Qatar: from 2024, the country will transform itself every four years into a true center of contemporary Arab art. This initiative is part of the “Years of Culture” of Qatar’s museums.

“The main objective is to make Qatar known to the world and bring the world to Qatar. For this, we are building cultural bridges. We come together around the pillars of culture, be it fashion, arts, gastronomy, cinema, literature or science”, says Aljazi Al Khayareen, coordinator of the “Years of Culture” initiative.

On the other side of the museum, the Majaz Gallery, celebrates the work of artists from Qatar and the region, who participated in the program “Artist in Residence” of the Doha fire station for the past five years.

The traditional art of decorating Indian and Pakistani trucks is represented here by paintings on the walls of buildings in the Al Mansoura district.

“I think Pakistanis really show off their trucks by decorating them for several weeks. Whereas in India, trucks are decorated faster. Pakistani art is extremely detailed, while Indian style is a bit more graphic , a little more lively, but it’s still very beautiful”, says Farid Bawa, founder of All India Permit.

Lusail Museum

This year in Qatar, there are not only exhibitions to discover. Museums across the country also unveiled a host of new art content, including more than 200 artifacts from the future Lusail Museum.

The “Tales of a Connected World” exhibition is just a glimpse of the vision of the future Lusail Museum, ranging from ideas for its architectural design to rare historical pieces.

“It starts with a gallery on the discovery of Orientalism since the main collection of the museum was designed from the Orientalist art of 19th century European artists who traveled to the East”, explains Kholood Al Fahad, curator at the Lusail museum

The exhibition contains several works from the Lusail collection, all inspired by the themes of movement, identity and exchange.

There are sculptures, paintings and even props from 20th century films, such as the feature film “Antony and Cleopatra”, released in 1972.

Although the beginning of the construction of the Lusail museum is planned for 2023, this exhibition has the merit of taking the visitor on a journey, from the archaeological remains of the initial site to the models of the new museum.

The Art of “Bread Making”

Another museum under construction is the Art Mill (Moulin à Art), which also offers a preview exhibition.

The Art Mill Museum exhibition takes place in two separate locations: the Al Najada Heritage House and the Old Flour Mills of Qatar.

Windmills hold a vital place in the local culture and they are really showcased here.

In this exhibit, you can hear the sound of machines spinning, and watch videos of bread making. And these sacks filled with flour are now part of the decor. Seven artists have been commissioned to show the pieces that will one day have their final place here.

The Museum of Islamic Art: a must

Even though the focus has been on upcoming museums, the country’s most famous art space, the Museum of Islamic Art, has been given a facelift with a more ambitious approach.

The aim is to link the different currents of Islamic history and to contextualize the themes addressed in each gallery.

“We stayed closed for 18 months to change a lot of elements. Thus, we changed the museography of the galleries. We introduced a new visit route, presented background stories and tried to organize a walk around it …so that visitors can truly learn about the art, culture and history of the Middle East”, explained Julia Gonnella, director of the Museum of Islamic Art.

Qatar tells its rich history through modern art