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Mathaf’s Encyclopedia is a treasure trove of information on Arab Modern Art

14 May 2020

A series of fortunate happenstances launched Baya Mahieddine’s artistic career. Baya was an orphan who lived with her grandmother just outside of Algiers. She was “discovered” at the age of 7 by a Frenchwoman, Marguerite Caminat Benhoura. Baya then moved to the city to live with Benhoura and began painting. Later on, one of Benhoura’s guests saw Baya’s paintings and went on to organize the artist's first solo exhibition. Baya was 16 at the time. 


Artwork by Baya Mahieddine, titles Les deux musiciennes
Baya Mahieddine, Les deux musiciennes, 1966, Gouache and graphite on paper, 99 x 148.5 cm Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha

You can find out more about Baya and other Arab contemporary artists in Mathaf's Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World. Read about Dia al-Azzawi, who is considered one of the pioneers of modern Arab art, and how he was introduced to art by his older brother, or delve into Saloua Raouda Choucair's story, a contemporary artist from Lebanon, who was a fierce intellect and had reading interests that ranged from quantum physics and Arabic poetry to molecular biology and optics.


Image of Mathaf Encyclopedia's homepages
Mathaf Encyclopedia's homepage

The peer reviewed online source is run by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art. It contains 47 detailed biographies meticulously written by different scholars and independent researchers. Each entry also contains samples of the artists’ artworks that you can peruse, and a list for further reading.


Image of artist's biographies page on the Mathaf encyclopedia
Artist's biographies index

There is also a page dedicated to essays written by some of the artists themselves and other scholars. Dia Al-Azzawi wrote “Notes for an Autobiography”, a first person memoir of his life and work.

"As a child, I was interested in what are called handicrafts. I would use cardboard to create different shapes or wire to make [little] cars that I would show off to the other kids in my neighbourhood. From time to time, I would try to draw members of my family"
Dia Al-Azzawi

There is no better time than the present to delve into the fascinating modern history and stories of Contemporary Arab Art. You can also follow Mathaf’s Instagram for weekly highlights on contemporary Arab artists.


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