x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Doha looks to end Capital of Culture year on high note

A museum that may ultimately house what is likely the world's largest collection of modern Arab art - 6,000 works from the past 150 years – will open December 20.

David Lepeska Foreign Correspondent Doha // It looks set to be the exclamation point at the end of Doha's year as the UN-designated Arab Capital of Culture. Qatari officials have announced that the Arab Museum of Modern Art, or Mathaf, will open December 30. The museum will feature dozens of contemporary artists and may ultimately house what is likely the world's largest collection of modern Arab art - 6,000 works from the past 150 years.

"Arab artists are now receiving unprecedented visibility and support, in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world," Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammad bin Ali al Thani, vice-chairman of the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), said in news release this week. "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."

Sheikha al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, QMA chair, added: "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." Mathaf (museum) will be temporarily housed in a 59,000 sq ft former school building in Education City and include two galleries, a shop, library and cafe. Plans for a permanent home are in the works.

The acting director Wassan al Khudhairi, formerly of the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York, will oversee a collection that ranges from the 1840s to the present and features more than 100 artists from across the Arab world. Four artists from the Gulf - Jassim al Zainy and Yousef Ahmad from Qatar and Faisal Samra and Abdullah al Muharraqi from Bahrain - are also included. The museum's inaugural exhibition, "Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art", will present highlights from the collection.

The museum "can truly flourish only if the artists themselves and their collectors, curators and audiences are able to connect today's activities to yesterday's achievements," Mr al Thani said. Paired with the Museum of Islamic Art, which opened two years ago, the new museum may make Doha home to the leading institutions dedicated to Islamic and Arab art. dlepeska@thenational.ae