Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art
30 December 2010 - 1 October 2011. Works by more than 100 artists, curated by Nada Shabout, Wassan Al-Khudhairi and Deena Chalabi.
A Dialogue Between the Modern and the Contemporary. 30 December 2010 - 28 May 2011. Works by Dia Azzawi, Farid Belkahia, Ahmed Nawar, Ibrahim el-Salahi and Hassan Sharif. Curator: Nada Shabout.
23 Stories of Journeys Through Time and Place.
Press release, Qatar Museums Authority,
Conceived as a gathering place where questions are asked, ideas are explored and creativity is fostered, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art opened to the public on December 30, 2010, in Doha, Qatar.
Mathaf (pronounced Mat-haff, which means "museum" in Arabic) will present exhibitions and programs that explore modern Arab art. Its collection of more than 6,000 works represents major trends and sites of production of modern Arab art, spanning the 1840s to the present. In addition to its collection and special exhibitions, Mathaf’s on-site and online programs will reinforce its role as a center for global dialogue, research and scholarship. 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 Doha’s Education City, which was re-designed for Mathaf by the French architect Jean-François Bodin. QMA will determine its plans for the construction of a future, permanent home for the Museum at a later date.
Mathaf is the outgrowth of more than two decades of activity by QMA’s Vice-Chairperson, His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al-Thani. The collection was adopted originally by Qatar Foundation, who safeguarded it for four years before QMA took the Museum on as a Museums Authority project, at which point the current partnership was formed. As the catalyst of this project, Sheikh Hassan has encouraged creativity in Qatar and throughout the region with his longtime commitment to Arab artists.
Overseeing the establishment and opening of Mathaf is QMA Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
"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," stated H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa. "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."
According to H.E. Sheikh Hassan, "Arab artists are now receiving unprecedented visibility and support, in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. We warmly welcome this development—but we know that it can truly flourish only if the artists themselves and their collectors, curators and audiences are able to connect today’s activities to yesterday’s achievements. 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."
"In Qatar, we are creating a new paradigm for museums in the 21st century, redefining their context, philosophies and operations," said QMA Executive Director Roger Mandle. "The Mathaf experience is centered on dialogue and interactivity, and will become a unique arts space for the community."
"Mathaf aims to become a resource for its visitors—both physical and virtual, local and global—to learn about modern Arab art," said Chief Curator and Acting Director Wassan Al-Khudhairi. "We are proud to follow His Excellency Sheikh Hassan’s lead as pioneers in this growing field, and to honor the seminal artists who have profoundly impacted the art of our time."
Inaugural Exhibition Reveals New Perspectives on Arab Modernism
Mathaf will open with Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art on view from December 30 2010: an inaugural exhibition of highlights from the collection, featuring works by more than 100 artists and representing pivotal experiments in aesthetics. Sajjil, an Arabic word meaning the act of 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 exhibition contributes to a renegotiation of the positions of Arabs to and in modernity. It acknowledges the multiplicity of experiences that form Arab modern art and emphasizes the several common moments that justify a collective identity. It is organized around several themes that overlap and intersect, where ideas cut across chronology, and discontinuity and rupture are part of the story.
Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art is organized and curated by Dr. Nada Shabout, guest curator and consultant, Associate Professor of Art History and Director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute at the University of North Texas; Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Mathaf’s Chief Curator and Acting Director; and Deena Chalabi, Mathaf’s Head of Strategy.
The inaugural exhibition and programs will be housed in a 5,500-square-meter (59,000-square-foot) facility that includes galleries on two floors, a café, a museum shop, a research library and an education wing. Visitors will enter Mathaf through a terrace that features a shaded outdoor seating area for the café. From the terrace, visitors will pass through a screen-wrapped scaffolding-style façade, upon which imagery and video can be projected at night. Inside Mathaf, the flexible space has an informal and contemporary aesthetic. Like the collection that it houses, this temporary home expresses a balance between the old and the new, as well as reflecting Mathaf’s commitment to education.
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 and Told / Untold / Retold, which will be on view from December 30, 2010 to May 28, 2011.
Interventions: a dialogue between the modern and the contemporary, curated by Nada Shabout, will profile five major artists whose careers have spanned the years from modern to contemporary art. They are Dia Azzawi, Farid Belkahia, Ahmed Nawar, Ibrahim el-Salahi and Hassan Sharif. A new work commissioned by Mathaf from each of these artists will be shown in the context of existing works by the artists from the Mathaf collection.
The exhibition honors the lives and careers of these artists, who have forged and promoted modern art in their respective countries and remain influential today. Because Arabism was a major factor in the maturation of modern art from the Arab world when they came of age, their work has sometimes manifested a search for cultural identity and a desire to preserve cultural distinctiveness. At the same time, these artists have never sacrificed aesthetic growth, or abandoned the existential quest for understanding the modern self.
In speaking of the artists, Shabout said, "All five have challenged many social conventions and on various occasions pushed the envelope of what was permitted publicly. We hope that Interventions will be the first of a number of exhibitions that will recognize key achievements in constructing the history of modern art from the Arab world, and that will provide spaces for writing this history."
Told / Untold / Retold: 23 stories of journeys through time and place will present new works commissioned by Mathaf from 23 contemporary artists with roots in the Arab world. The most ambitious museum exhibition of contemporary art ever presented in the Arab world, Told / Untold / Retold will include painting, sculpture, photography, video, multimedia installations and interactive digital art. The participating artists are Adel Abidin, Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Buthayna Ali, Ahmed Alsoudani, Ghada Amer, Kader Attia, Lara Baladi, Wafaa Bilal, Abdelkader Benchamma, Mounir Fatmi, Lamia Joreige, Amal Kenawy, Jeffar Khaldi, Hassan Khan, Youssef Nabil, Walid Raad, Khalil Rabah, Younès Rahmoun, Steve Sabella, Marwan Sahmarani, Zineb Sedira, Khaled Takreti, and Akram Zaatari. Told / Untold / Retold is curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, the co-founders of Art Reoriented, a curatorial platform focusing on contemporary art from the Middle East.
Told / Untold / Retold is a collection of 23 stories each vividly expressed in a new art work. Some stories are "Told," evoking autobiographical accounts and nostalgia for the things that were. Other stories are "Untold," anticipating an imagined future that speaks of things that could be. And there are those that are "Retold," proposing an alternative narrative to the things that are. Central to each story is the use of time as a concrete compositional element and the reflection on the act of journeying, a condition that has come to describe the rampant fluidity of today's society.
In discussing the curatorial theme of the exhibition, Bardaouil and Fellrath said, "Today's artists are in constant transmigration across a diversity of cities and locations, yet never escaping redundant geographical labels through which their work is misconstrued. They are in perpetual metamorphosis, in a state of in-betweenness. These journeys occur not only in place, but also in time. When you move and leave things behind, you remember, recollect and reconstruct, but you also reorient and redirect yourself. These are all acts into which time is intricately weaved. This explains why time is often a significant formalistic component within contemporary artistic practice. In that sense, Told / Untold / Retold is a subversive confrontation, celebrating a willful act of uprooting that is reflective of the transient condition of our world."
Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art is a new institution for Arab culture and creativity. Home to a unique permanent collection that offers a rare comprehensive overview of modern Arab art, Mathaf (which means "museum" in Arabic) will also perform an important role as a center for dialogue and scholarship and a resource for fostering creativity. The museum is located in a former school building in Doha’s Education City that has been transformed by architect Jean-François Bodin.
About Qatar Museums Authority
Under the leadership of His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and led by its Chairperson, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) carries out a multi-faceted program that celebrates Qatari identity, builds understanding across borders and welcomes the world to Doha. In addition to Mathaf, QMA currently oversees the renowned Museum of Islamic Art designed by I.M. Pei (opened in 2008), the construction and development of the new National Museum of Qatar (designed by Jean Nouvel), archeological research projects throughout the nation, and the development of future projects.
About Qatar Foundation and Education City
Qatar Foundation was established in 1995 by His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, with a threefold mission of education, scientific research and community development. Chaired by Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, wife of the Emir, Qatar Foundation’s flagship project is Education City, a 1,000-hectare (2,500-acre) campus on the western edge of Doha. Institutions operating in Education City include the Qatar Academy, the Qatar Leadership Academy and The Learning Center, all serving students from childhood through secondary school; the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies; and branches of Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and Northwestern University.
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