With a collection of more than 6,000 works, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art will open to the public on December 30, the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) announced yesterday.
Mathaf (pronounced Mat-haff, which means “museum” in Arabic) will present exhibitions and programmes that explore modern Arab art.
The Museum will temporarily occupy a former school building in the 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 will open with Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art on view from December 30, an exhibition of highlights from the collection, featuring works by more than 100 artists and representing pivotal experiments in aesthetics.
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.
Mathaf’s on-site and online programmes will reinforce its role as a centre for global dialogue, research and scholarship. These activities are designed to engage artists, writers, students, scholars as well as the public.
Mathaf is the outgrowth of more than two decades of activity by QMA’s Vice-Chairperson, 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 it as a Museums Authority project, at which point the current partnership was formed.
QMA Chairperson H E Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani will oversee the establishment and opening of Mathaf.
“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,” said 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 Sheikh Hassan, “Arab artists are now receiving unprecedented visibility and support, in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world.
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.”
The inaugural exhibition and programmes will be housed in a 5,500 sq m 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 feel.
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, Mathaf will present two special opening exhibitions in a new temporary exhibition space located on the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art.
“Interventions”, on view from December 30 to May 28, 2011, curated by Dr Nada Shabout, celebrates the work and artistic development of five major modern Arab artists, who were instrumental in introducing and negotiating modernism in the Arab world, and remain productive and influential today.
“Interventions” features works from Mathaf’s permanent collection alongside a newly commissioned work by each artist.
“Told/Untold/Retold”, on view from December 30, to May 28, 2011 curated by Sam Bardouil and Till Fellrath, features newly commissioned work by 23 contemporary artists with roots in the Arab world.
Through the central theme of storytelling, the exhibition attests to art not as a finished product for contemplation but as a site of navigation to be explored.
“Told/Untold/Retold” will be the first large-scale contemporary art exhibition in Doha.
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