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All images courtesy of Qatar Museums

A retrospective featuring more than 500 works by acclaimed Iraqi artist Dia al-Azzawi launches in two Qatar galleries this week.

Paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints will be included in the exhibition, which charts the 50-year career of the modernist artist. Some of the items are being put on public display for the first time.

Titled I am the cry, who will give voice to me? the show launches at the Arab Museum of Modern Art (Mathaf) today and at the Qatar Museums (QM) Gallery Al Riwaq in MIA park from tomorrow (Oct. 17).

Covering a total space of 9,000 sq meters, it will run for five months until Apr. 17, 2017.

Other Qatar installations

This is the latest in a series of Qatar-based exhibitions al-Azzawi has taken part in over the years.

His carousel installation, Enchanted East, was launched at MIA Park this summer.

Also a functioning children’s ride, it features 40 designed animal “seats” that are inspired by MIA’s permanent collection.

MIA Park Carousel

Qatar Museums

The merry-go-round at the MIA Park

Meanwhile, two sculptures by Al-Azzawi are set to be unveiled at Hamad International Airport (HIA) next month, QM said in a statement.

Called Flying Man, the works are among a large number of art pieces to be installed at the airport.

The most famous of these is Urs Fischer’s seven-meter tall yellow teddy Lamp Bear, which is the favored backdrop for many a traveler’s selfie.

Bearing witness

Al-Azzawi’s latest Qatar show is one of the largest solo exhibitions by an Arab artist ever staged, and has been curated by Catherine David, deputy director of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Abdellah Karroum, director at Mathaf, described al-Azzawi as “a witness of his time.”

“His work is in many ways a response to political and social change. al-Azzawi was an integral part of cultural movements since the 1960s and still is today…

“Through exhibitions such as this, we want to make art integral to daily life by bringing it to a wide range of local audiences and visitors to the country,” he said in a statement.

Setting up Dia al-Azzawi exhibition at Mathaf and Al Riwaq


Setting up Dia al-Azzawi exhibition at Mathaf and Al Riwaq

There are two themes to the exhibition, both deriving from an encounter with the poet Muzaffar Al-Nawwab in 1968.

The first examines the relationship between image and text in the artist’s work, while the other is about his interpretation of important moments in the history of Iraq and the Arab world.

Souvenir shopping

Visitors will have the opportunity to buy keepsakes inspired by the artist’s work at QM shops across town.

These include silk scarves and replicas of the artist’s 2011 bronze sculpture of Handala – a cartoon character depicting a 10-year-old Palestinian refugee.

After graduating from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad, al-Azzawi began his artistic career in 1964. He worked in Iraq until 1976 when he moved to London, where he has lived ever since.

His work has exhibited in some of the world’s leading galleries, including London’s British Museum, the Tate Modern and Victoria and Albert Museum; The Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah in the UAE; the Kinda Foundation in Saudi Arabia; and Museums of Modern Art in Baghdad, Damascus and Tunis.

Dia al-Azzawi exhibition at Mathaf and Al Riwaq

Qatar Museums

Dia al-Azzawi exhibition at Mathaf and Al Riwaq

I am the cry, who will give voice to me? Dia al-Azzawi: A Retrospective (from 1963 until tomorrow) opens today (Oct. 16) at Mathaf and on Oct. 17 at Al Riwaq. Admission is free. It runs until Apr. 17, 2017.


All photos by Ray Toh

Mahmoud Obaidi knows what it feels like to be singled out at the airport.

The Canadian-Iraqi artist visited Doha this week to share his experiences of “flying while brown” in a new exhibition opening at the Arab Museum of Modern Art (Mathaf).

Inspired by an encounter with authorities at a Texas airport, Obaidi’s Fair Skies micro-installation uses photography, videography, plastic models and technology to tell his story.

“This is for Arabs, Colombians, Italians – anyone with brown skin,” he told reporters yesterday.


One of the more quirky elements of the small exhibition is a line of five vending machines.

These are filled with products to transform a traveler’s appearance, presumably to eliminate some of the difficulties people of color face while flying.

Fair Skies exhibition by Mahmoud Obaidi

Ray Toh / Doha News

Fair Skies exhibition by Mahmoud Obaidi

The products include blonde hair dye, skin whitening cream and blue contact lenses in travel-size kits.

The idea behind the “beauty kit” was to show how a person’s image could be changed enough to get them through an airport without hassle, Obaidi said.

Meanwhile, at the center of the exhibition is a set of three clear plastic boxes that represent miniature scenes of his profiling experience.

The images show him at George Bush international airport in Houston. There, he is picked from a line of people about to board a plane to the Netherlands and then interrogated by airport staff.

Fair Skies exhibition by Mahmoud Obaidi

Ray Toh / Doha News

Fair Skies exhibition by Mahmoud Obaidi

Above one of the figures is a thought bubble that says, “Dedicated to all those who looks like me.”

Other features in the exhibition include a short film in which plastic characters animate the incident, which is offset by jaunty accompanying music.

There’s also a work in which images of faces are printed onto clear plastic sheets that are superimposed on each other to show different identities.


Obaidi, 50, left Baghdad in 1991 to obtain his masters degree in Canada. Since then, he said he has been repeatedly singled out at airports for additional screening, particularly in the US.

Houston airport

Henry Han/Wikipedia

Houston airport

Recalling the Houston airport incident, he said he was getting ready to board a plane when he got pulled out of line.

“The policeman was passing the line and pulled me out, asking ‘can I see your passport.’

When I explained why I didn’t have particular airport stamps because it was a Canadian passport, he said, ‘don’t raise your hand at me.’ He called for back-up and there was a big scene,” Obaidi said.

The installation, which is now owned by Mathaf, was commissioned for Art Dubai and debuted there in 2010.

Fair Skies is situated in Mathaf’s ground-floor project space. The location allows young curators to experiment with more unusual ideas and methods of presenting them.

Namkha Beschi, assistant curator at Mathaf, told Doha News:

“This exhibition represents a social issue – one we can’t really ignore and which people here will have experienced… We want to get people talking and thinking more about the issue.”

Other works

The opening of this installation precedes the launch of a bigger exhibition of Obaidi’s work in Katara next month.

Mahmoud Obaidi's exhibition Fragments, at QM Gallery in Katara

Qatar Museums

Mahmoud Obaidi’s exhibition Fragments, at QM Gallery in Katara

Fragments opens on Oct. 18. In it, the artist examines the destruction of Iraq as he tries to recreate what has been stolen or ruined.

This is the latest in several Qatar exhibitions Obaidi has already undertaken, which included an event at the Museum of Islamic Art in 2013.

Fair Skies will be at the Mathaf in Education City until Jan. 8, 2017. Admission is free.


All photos courtesy of Mathaf

For the next four months, the Doha-based Arab Museum of Modern Art (Mathaf) has reserved its ground floor exhibition space for solo exhibitions that showcase the work of five artists from the region.

From today until Feb. 14 next year, Focus: Works from the Mathaf Collection will feature the work of Qatar’s Faraj Daham, Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair, Egypt’s Inji Efflatoun, Farid Belkahia of Morocco and Abdulhalim Al-Radwi from Saudi Arabia.

Each artist’s work has been assembled by a different curator, and will remain part of Mathaf after the exhibition concludes.

In a statement on its website, Mathaf said:

“In different ways and with different forms, these five artists have played a major part in generating ideas and inventing techniques as they, in conversation with international art movements and other geographies, make sense of their artistic, social, and political worlds.”

Entry to the exhibition is free.

Opening hours are 11am to 6pm daily except Monday when the museum is closed. On Fridays, Mathaf is open from 3pm to 8pm.

Museum ‘Oscars’ award

Gunpowder exhibit at Mathaf by Cai Guo Qiang

Alexander Cheek/Flickr

Gunpowder exhibit at Mathaf by Cai Guo Qiang

Mathaf’s announcement of these new solo exhibitions follows its recent success at the prestigious Leading Cultural Destination (LCD) Awards on Oct. 9.

There, the museum won the regional award in the “best emerging culture destination” category, beating out Dubai’s Moving Image Museum and Salsali Private Museum, as well as Oman’s National Museum in Muscat.

Although the Museum of Islamic Art was also shortlisted in the awards for “best architecture and spatial design,” it lost to the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

Leading Cultural Destinations, a 15-year old company and quarterly magazine dedicated to bespoke travel and destination experiences, runs the awards, which are considered the “Oscars” for museums around the world.

Do you plan to check out the new exhibits at Mathaf? Thoughts?