Press release


25 October 2023


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Arab Museum of Modern Art, the world’s leading institution in its field, will open tomorrow 26 October 2023 four captivating exhibitions on 26 October, showcasing the breadth of contemporary art across the Arab world. A retrospective survey of the work of a distinguished confirmed Iraqi artist, a trailblazing exploration of abstraction as seen through the museum’s renowned collection, a long-range thematic collaboration carried out by artists from 20 countries, and an experimental research-based project blending ancient craftsmanship with modern technology will fill Mathaf’s galleries through 5 March 2024, giving local audiences and Qatar’s visitors from around the world exciting insights into today’s Arab art.

Zeina Arida, Director of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, said:“This fall, Mathaf will present a bounty of inspiring artworks in exhibitions that underscore the remarkable creative capacity of artists across our region. These shows represent four different ways to delve into the ever-present themes of heritage and identity while continuing to reimagine what modern and contemporary Arab art can be.”

Mehdi Moutashar, Houé, 2023. Sculpture, 181 x 150 x 5 cm.

Courtesy of the artist and Lawrie Shabibi Gallery.

Mehdi Moutashar: Introspection as Resistance presents a constellation of new and existing works in a wide variety of media by the distinguished Iraqi artist, in his first solo exhibition in Qatar and his first in the region in nearly 50 years. Organized by guest curator Amin Alsaden, Introspection as Resistance features artworks inspired by the endless potential of Arabic calligraphy and ornamental patterns, challenging preconceived, Western-based categorizations of Moutashar’s work as Abstraction, Minimalism, or Op-Art. More than 25 artworks created over five decades express the artist’s profound understanding of the region’s aesthetic traditions and celebrate the endless potential of its geometry.

Madiha Umar, Untitled (The Letter Ein), 1986. Oil on canvas, 74.5 x 85 x 4 cm.

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha - Qatar.

Distilled Lessons: Abstraction in Arab Modernism examines the meanings and methods that differentiate the way Arab artists have used abstraction from the approaches of their fellow artists around the globe. Drawn entirely from Mathaf’s unsurpassed collection, the exhibition, curated by Amin Alsaden , demonstrates how regional artists have drawn ideas, visual elements, and techniques from the rich and diverse heritage of the Arab-Muslim world, particularly calligraphy and ornamentation. Among the artists represented in the exhibition are Wafa al-Hamad, Thuraya Hassan al-Baqsami, Shakir Hassan Al Said, Samia Halaby, Omar el-Nagdi, Saloua Raouda Choucair, Madiha Umar, Ibrahim el-Salahi, and Charles Hossein Zenderoudi.

Samia Halabi, The Dongola Book, 2020-2021, Acrylic on paper, 30 x 137 cm.

Courtesy of the artist and Dongola Limited editions.

Cities Under Quarantine: The Mailbox Project, conceived and curated by Lebanese multidisciplinary artist Abed Al Kadiri of Dongola Limited Editions in Beirut, presents a personal and creative archive of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. A project born out of the pandemic’s enforced isolation, the initiative explores the polarities that defined this moment in history: life and death, certainty and uncertainty, safety and exposure, loneliness and friendship. Inspired by a quotation from artist John Baldessari about the difficulties of mailing a painting, Al Kadiri mailed books to artists in 22 cities around the world to solicit their creative expressions. On view are 59 handmade, hand-stitched books with bespoke covers designed by Reza Abedini, created in-house at Dongola. Artists Raed Yassin, Mahmoud Obaidi, Mona Saudi, Mohammad Kazem, Taysir Batniji, Faisal Samra, Ziad Dalloul, Dia Al-Azzawi, Hani Zurob, and Nadia Kaabi-Linke have used collage, photography, painting, drawing and other media to transform the books. In 2021, the project was given its debut at Villa Romana in Florence, Italy.

Hala Amer, Saga Elkabbash, Levi Hammett and Giovanni Innella, Future Memories, 2022 – ongoing. Aluminum, magnets, steel, sand, acrylic, nylon, MDF, computer code, and electronics, 240 x 120 x 40 cm (approximate).

Courtesy of the Artists and The Gallery at VCUarts Qatar.

De/Constructed Meanings, a collaboration between Mathaf and VCUarts Qatar faculty and staff, is an installation by Giovanni Innella, Hala Amer, Saga Elkabash, and Levi Hammett, presenting a device that uses a programmed coding system to write on sand. Inspired by the theories of the French thinker Jacques Derrida, the lines and shapes created impersonally by the device suggest the impermanence of Arabic script and the evolving variations in its interpretation throughout history. Co-curated by Noora Abdulmajeed and Rim Albahrani, De/Constructed Meaning is an experimental interrogation of the shifting postcolonial culture that is produced, consumed, and exported by people in the Arab region.

Mathaf fall exhibitions are supported by Audi.


Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art serves as the Arab world's leading modern and contemporary art museum. The Museum offers a welcoming, vibrant environment that invites evolving discussions about modern art in the region and beyond. Home to a permanent collection that offers a distinctively unique comprehensive overview of modern and contemporary art from North Africa and the Middle East, Mathaf ("museum" in Arabic) also performs a vital role as a centre for dialogue and scholarship and a resource for fostering creativity. Mathaf was opened in 2010 by QM in partnership with Qatar Foundation (QF) and is located in Education City. The Museum was founded by H.E. Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani, who began collecting in the 1980s with the acquisition of works by Qatari artists. Sheikh Hassan later broadened his focus to include works by 20th-century artists throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arab Diaspora and objects that inspired many Arab modern artists, such as pre-Islamic works from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. An initial group of works assembled by Sheikh Hassan was donated to the public institution. Over the past decade, Mathaf made major contributions to research and debate around modern and contemporary art, made available to scholars and audiences through the Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World. The Museum evolved into a meeting point for scholars from across the region around education programmes, conferences, and publications. It has served as a dynamic platform for artists by facilitating the creation and exploration of contemporary works.

About Qatar Museums

Qatar Museums (QM), the nation's preeminent institution for art and culture, provides authentic and inspiring cultural experiences through a growing network of museums, heritage sites, festivals, public art installations, and programmes. QM preserves, restores, and expands the nation's cultural offerings and historical sites, sharing art and culture from Qatar, the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia (MENASA) region with the world and enriching the lives of citizens, residents, and visitors.

Under the patronage of His Highness the Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and led by its Chairperson, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, QM has made Qatar a vibrant centre for the arts, culture, and education in the Middle East and beyond. QM is integral to the goal of developing an innovative, diverse, and progressive nation, bringing people together to ignite new thinking, spark critical cultural conversations, educate and encourage environmental stewardship and sustainable practices, and amplify the voices of Qatar's people. Since its founding in 2005, QM has overseen the Museum of Islamic Art and MIA Park, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of Qatar, QM Gallery Al Riwaq, QM Gallery Katara and the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum. Future museums include Dadu, Children's Museum of Qatar, Qatar Auto Museum, Art Mill Museum and the Lusail Museum.

Through its newly created Creative Hub, QM also initiates and supports projects—such as the Fire Station Artist in Residence, the Tasweer Qatar Photo Festival, the creative hub for innovation, fashion and design M7, and Liwan Design Studios and Labs —that nurture artistic talent and create opportunities to build a strong and sustainable cultural infrastructure.

Animating everything that Qatar Museums does is an authentic connection to Qatar and its heritage, a steadfast commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, and a belief in creating value through invention.

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