Art Observed was on site for the inauguration of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar. Under the presence of His Highness, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, art world luminaries, cultural dignitaries, and around 80 artists gathered together for the opening ceremony this past week. Mathaf—Arabic for “museum”—is the first institution of its kind in the region focusing entirely on Arab art and creativity. The museum has been one of the most highly anticipated museums of the year and will open to the general public on December 30th, 2010.
This unique institution is backed by Qatar royal Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammad bin Ali al Thani who is also vice president of the Qatar Museum Authority. As its name reflects, the new museum will focus on Arab modern and contemporary art from 1840 until the present and will feature an unprecedented collection of more than 6,000 works. The museum will temporarily occupy a former school building in Doha’s Education City redesigned by French architect Jean- Francois Bodin and will also serve as a research facility for artists and art students.
Guests gathered outside before the museum doors opened and enjoyed live entertainment led by Yassin Alsalman (a.k.a. The Narcicyst) under the title Identity Card: Who We Were, Who We Are. The compilation of musical performance reflected the opening week’s theme of the resurgence of Arab artistic expression through greater dialogue between the East and the West.
The museum opened its doors with its inaugural exhibition Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art, which features historic works of Arab modernism as well as newly commissioned works for the museum. In Arabic, “Sajjil” means the art of recording, a title which exemplifies the subject matter of more than 240 paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media installations on display as they reflect pieces of Arab history and culture over the last century.
Interventions and Told/Untold are two additional exhibitions held by Mathaf in conjunction with the inauguration. They can be seen at the Museum of Islamic Art and the Qatar Museum Authority’s new exhibition space.
“Mathaf was born out of Sheikh Hassan’s profound, ongoing engagement with Arab artists and his desire to share their works with our own people and a global audience. This is the perfect illustration of our mission at QMA: to build understanding across borders and welcome the world to Doha. Mathaf fulfills this mission, and does so with the element of innovation toward which we always aspire,” said Abdulla Al Najjar, CEO of QMA in a recent press release.
The museum’s multipurpose facility intends to foster greatly anticipated dialogue and creativity between artists and cultural professionals within the Arab world and within the international art community.
Red Sky with Birds (1981) by Dia Azzawi, via Mathaf
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art [Official site]
Arab Museum of Modern Art Announces Details of Its Three Opening Exhibitions [Art Daily]
Doha’s Museum of Modern Art Aims to Protect and Conserve [The National]
Qatar to Open a Pathbreaking Museum of Modern Arab Art [Art Info]
The Cultural World Gathers in Qatar to Inaugurate Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art [Art Daily]
An Early Look at Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art, in Qatar [LA Times]
Museum of Modern Arab Art to Open in Doha in December [Gulf News]
Shining a Light: Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani on Qatar’s First Museum of Modern Arab Art [Art Info]