Qatar’s Mathaf opens new permanent contemporary art collection

Chantelle D'mello

Contemporary and modern art from more than 100 artists across the region has found a home in a new permanent exhibition at Qatar’s Arab Museum of Modern Art (Mathaf).

The exhibition, titled Mathaf Collection, Summary, Part 1, opened yesterday and draws from the museum’s collection of some 8,000 pieces. It features prominent artists like Farid Belkahia, Wafa al-Hamad, Hassan Sharif, Ibrahim el-Salahi and Jassim Zaini.

The pieces come from the vast collection of Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani, the founding patron of Mathaf. This is one of the largest displays of artwork on offer at the museum since last December.

Chantelle D'mello

Included in the exhibition are works that show an intersection of African and Arab influences (Ibrahim el-Salahi), a unique French free figuration style developed by Serif Wanly under the limitations of colonial rule in Algeria, and modern Egyptian symbols of social and industrial progress in the works of Seif Wanly.

Other pieces include the works of Hassan Sharif and Farid Bekahia, who use natural materials, retrieved objects and local languages to express their views on the making of art in its contemporary context.

Ahead of the game

Since it opened in December 2010, Mathaf has been one of the few venues that house large collections of contemporary Arab art in the Gulf.

Quoting Hossein Amirsadeghi, the editor of Art & Patronage: the Middle East, Art Newspaper reports:

“Mathaf is pre-empting the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi project, which is delayed (the museum on Saadiyat Island is due to open 2017)… Such new collections, including the Guggenheim’s, will inevitably come after Sheikh Hassan Al Thani’s initiative, thus some of the best works will be beyond their reach.”

Mathaf

The Mathaf’s new exhibition, which takes up the entire first floor of the museum, is part of a wider program of research and documentation, culminating in the online Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World.

Work on the bilingual free information project is currently underway, and it is scheduled to be launched in 2015.

In a statement, museum curators said the new display aims to address the idea of modern art in a way that visitors can relate to.

“Through this exhibition we are seeking to position modern and contemporary art from Mathaf’s collection within the local and global context, and give multiple entry points into the collection, through artistic research, historical moments and aesthetic experimentations on the idea of an Arab modernity,” said Abdellah Karroum, the Director of Mathaf, who curated the exhibition along with assistant curators Laura Barlow and Leonore-Namkha Beschi, and researcher Dr. Yasser Mongy.

The exhibition is free and open to the public from 11am to 6pm, Saturday to Thursday (closed Monday), and from 3 to 8pm on Fridays.

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