Museum officials speaking to reporters at a press conference yesterday. PICTURE: Shemeer Rasheed

A new exhibition of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha presents 100 artists from its permanent collection of over 8,000 works starting tomorrow.

Titled “Mathaf Collection, Summary, Part 1”, the exhibition includes works from Qatar and the Arab world, Iran, Turkey and other regions historically connected to the Arab Peninsula. It reflects a large number of artistic directions and contexts.

“Qatar has a long tradition of collecting works that reflect the inherent art, creativity and heritage in the region,” said Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali al-Thani, patron of Mathaf and the Permanent Collection.

“It is my belief this important collection honours the traditions of the past in Qatar and throughout the Arab world, while embracing our future.”

The new exhibition also contributes to developing research into the collection and its interconnections with contemporary cultures that is also present online in the Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World, developed by Mathaf.

Artists represented in “Summary, Part 1” include Farid Belkahia (1934-2014), Faraj Daham (b 1956), Wafa al-Hamad (1964-2012), Baya Mahieddine (1931-1998), Salman al-Malik (b 1958), Mahmoud Mouktar (1891-1934), Wafika Sultan (b 1956), Ibrahim el-Salahi (b 1930), Hassan Sharif (b 1951), Jewad Selim (1919-1961), Seif Wanly (1906-1979) and Jassim Zaini (1943-2012).

African and Arabic representations meet in the paintings of el-Salahi and the work of Mahieddine exemplifies her unique style of free figuration developed under the limitations of colonial rule in Algeria.

Wanly depicts modern Egyptian symbols of social and industrial progress while Sharif and Belkahia use natural materials, found objects and local languages to express strong statements on the making of art in their contemporary contexts.

The exhibition also presents the work of Zaini, Selim and Mouktar, who were the first to establish the art scene in their countries.

“We are seeking to position modern and contemporary art from Mathaf’s collection within the local and global context,” said Mathaf director Abdellah Karroum.

Mathaf also wants to give multiple entry points into the collection through artistic research, historical moments and aesthetic experimentations on the idea of an Arab modernity.

The exhibition is collectively curated by Karroum; Laura Barlow and Leonore-Namkha Beschi, assistant curators; and Dr Yasser Mongy, researcher.

As part of Mathaf’s wider programme of research and documentation, in collaboration with Qatar Museums and Qatar Foundation, the Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World is now being developed. It will be launched in 2015.

The bilingual (English and Arabic) encyclopedia is a free online “scholarly, peer-reviewed and comprehensive resource” that will provide in-depth information on modern and contemporary art from the Arab world.

“The curatorial concept of ‘Summary, Part 1’ looks beyond traditional linear histories of art to highlight diverse attitudes and contextualise intellectual production within multiple modernities,” Mathaf pointed out.

It noted that the methodology of display adopted in the exhibition is informative rather than spectacular, proposing new relationships between works and key moments in history.




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