The Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar
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Mike Tuckerman provides a guide to Doha's Arab Museum of Modern Art.
Museum Contact: (+974) 44 876 662 or (+974) 44 028 855
Housed in a converted school building on the outskirts of town, the Museum is nestled in a corner of Doha's ever-growing Education City complex. A temporary space redesigned by French architect Jean Francois-Bodin, the 59,000-square-foot building is all about function over form, and much of the spartan exterior is still covered by scaffolding.
A pair of sculptures dominates the forecourt, impressive in both size and scale. The towering Guardian of the Fertile Crescent was conceived by renowned sculpture artist Ismail Fattah, who sadly passed away before its completion. Ali Nouri finished the monumental granite carving, which depicts two imposing figures seated side by side.
Fellow sculptor Adam Henein has created Al-Safina or "The Ship" from blocks of pink and black granite quarried from his homeland in Egypt. Sitting solemnly on top of the ship-like structure are a variety of imposing bronze sculptures which depict animal, plant and human life, as well as several abstract forms, many of which soar impressively towards the skyline.
Inside, visitors are welcomed into a spacious lobby dominated by portraits of H.E. Sheikh Hassan and his wife, while a discreetly placed information desk offers a variety of literature and a floorplan of the artwork at hand.
With the city of Doha remaining a central theme, soft shades frame vibrant paintings housed in a succession of interconnected galleries, but the harsh fluorescent lighting between floors at times provides a jarring sensory experience.
Indeed, the maze-like layout can prove a test of one's patience, but once the meandering floorplan has been negotiated the museum offers plenty of rewards for those with an interest in modern Arabic art.
With a long-standing interest in art and artistic expression, H.E. Sheikh Hassan began assembling his impressive art collection well before the turn of the century. A long-time patron and protector of Arabic artists particularly those from war-torn Iraq the Sheikh has contributed to a collection now estimated to stand at more than 6,000 pieces.
Most are comprised of traditional oil and canvas paintings, however mixed media and abstract installations feature prominently throughout the Sajjil exhibition as one would expect from a modern art museum.
Broadly connected by themes of family, politics and society as well as the many civic struggles endured by the Arab world throughout the 20th Century subjects include cityscapes, text-based art and individual portraiture.
Artists from across a broad Arab spectrum are represented, and while names like Dia Azzawai, Mahmoud Said and the Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour are perhaps less familiar to western visitors, however the eclectic mix of traditional and modern ensures both casuals and connosseiurs are well catered for.
Specific exhibits include:
A growing hub of cultural activity within the region, the ever-expanding city of Doha marks a natural starting point for the collection, with the gallery featuring works by artists who have stayed in the city within the past twenty years.
Portraiture plays a significant role in modern Arabic art, and the gallery features a number of portrait paintings and self-portraits from a century of influential Arab figures.
Named for an Arabic term loosely meaning modern abstraction of text, this thought-provoking gallery features works by artists using Arabic letters as abstract forms.
Far removed from the landscapes predominant in 19th century European artworks, one hundred years later it was the urban streetscapes of the city which inspired a generation of Arab artists.
Modern Arab history might be dominated by the so-called Arab-Israeli conflict, but themes of political upheaval, street-based uprisings and economic turmoil also feature in this powerful gallery.
The Museum will be closed on the first day of Eid.
Sunday: 11.00 - 18.00
Admission is free.
A multicultural staff featuring a refreshing amount of Qatari input is headed by American-Iraqi guest curator Dr Nada Shabout.
The Museum includes a small book-and-souvenir shop offering a concise selection of literature, as well as a small outdoor café which serves tea, coffee and a variety of snacks.
A library and artists workshop are major features of the Museum, and local artists are well catered for in terms of space and research facilities.
As the Museum is located on the outskirts of town, guests are advised to bring a map when travelling by taxi, and it's a good idea to have the information desk call ahead for the return journey into the city.
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