museum review - Arab Museum of Modern Art

Installation view of inaugural exhibition, Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art
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Opened in December 2010 in Doha, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art is a new institution for Arab culture and creativity.

Dia Azzawi

The vision of Mathaf was born some 20 years ago, when patron and founder H.E. Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani first began to imagine what an Arab Museum of Modern Art might look like. He started to build a collection that could serve artists and the public alike as a rich and representative treasure house of modern Arab art.

The resulting building in Doha’s Education City – transformed by architect Jean-François Bodin in association with Burns and McDonnell – now houses a unique permanent collection that offers a rare comprehensive overview of modern Arab art. Mathaf (pronounced ‘mat-haf’, and meaning ‘museum’ in Arabic) will also perform an important role as a centre for dialogue and scholarship, and a resource for fostering creativity. The collection, which includes work by artists from every Arab country, representing major trends and sites of production in the region, will be available for artists and scholars to visit and study in person, and will also ultimately be documented in an open online database for the global public.

The museum’s inaugural exhibition is Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art. Sajjil means ‘Act of Recording’, and it brings together over 200 artworks from Mathaf’s extensive collection, offering a remarkable, comprehensive cross-section of art from the Arab world produced over the last 100 years.

The exhibition creates a space for many different stories and experiences, and helps set Arab modern art in its historical place within a larger art-history tradition. It also emphasises the several common moments and concerns that make it possible to talk about a shared identity in the region.

The month of May is the last chance to see the exhibitions Told/Untold/Retold and Interventions. The most ambitious museum exhibition of contemporary art ever presented in the Arab world, Told/Untold/Retold presents 23 stories, each expressed in a new work of contemporary art, with media including painting, sculpture, photography, video, multimedia installations, and interactive digital art. 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.

Interventions – also running until May 28 – honours and celebrates the lives and careers of five pivotal modern Arab artists – Dia Azzawi, Farid Belkahia, Ahmed Nawar, Ibrahim el-Salahi, and Hassan Sharif – who have each created a new piece specifically for the exhibition.


Mathaf is closed on Mondays.
Friday 3pm–9pm
All other days, 11am–6pm
Admission is free
Tel: +974 44028855

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