Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art

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The Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (متحف : المتحف العربي للفن الحديث) in Doha offers an Arab perspective on modern and contemporary art and supports creativity, promotes dialogue and inspires new ideas. It is the first institution of its kind in Qatar.


The 5,500-square-meter (59,000-square-foot) museum, located in a former school building in Doha’s Education City, has a collection of more than 6,000 artworks that offers a rare comprehensive overview of modern Arab art, representing the major trends and sites of production spanning the 1840s to the present. The collection was donated by Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani to Qatar Foundation, and was later acquired by Qatar Museums Authority.[1] In the words of the Emir's daughter, "With the opening of the Mathaf, we are making Qatar the place to see, explore and discuss the creations of Arab artists of the modern era and of our own time".[2]


Mathaf presents exhibitions that situate the Arab world in relation to a larger art context. It also offers programs that engage the local and international community, encourage research and scholarship and contribute to the cultural landscape of the Gulf region, the Middle East, the Arab diaspora and beyond.

Mathaf opened on 30 December 2010 with an exhibition called Sajjil, which means "act of recording" in Arabic, and featured a cross-section of Arab art over the previous 100 years. Simultaneously, the museum hosted Interventions (an exhibition of new commissions by five pivotal modernist Arab artists (Dia Azzawi, Farid Belkahia, Ahmed Nawar, Ibrahim el-Salahi and Hassan Sharif) and Told/Untold/Retold, an ambitious exhibition of new commissions by twenty-three contemporary Arab artists.

Mathaf's following exhibition, Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab, ran from 5 December 2011 to 26 May 2012. Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab showcased more than fifty works, including seventeen newly commissioned artworks, by the renowned contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang. Saraab ("mirage") re-imagined historical relations between China and the Gulf region and, in turning east to consider artistic dynamics across Asia, reaffirmed Mathaf's commitment to presenting a unique Arab perspective on modern and contemporary art. The exhibition opened with Cai Guo-Qiang's largest ever daytime explosion event, Black Ceremony.

Tea with Nefertiti: the Making of the Artwork by the Artist, the Museum and the Public
This exhibition examines our perceptions of an artwork from three distinct perspectives: the artist, the museum, and the public. Through revisiting the contested histories of how Egyptian collections have been amassed by numerous museums from the 19th century onwards, it brings together antiquities, modernist works, archives and 26 international contemporary artists and artist collectives.

Mathaf's current[when?] exhibitions are:

  • Forever Now: Five Anecdotes from the Permanent Collection. The exhibition proposes new readings based on the works of five artists from Mathaf’s permanent collection. This exhibition unpacks new narratives that posit a unique understanding of five diverse artists: Fahrelnissa Zeid, Jewad Selim, Saliba Douaihy, Salim Al–Dabbagh and Ahmed Cherkaoui.
  • "Selections from the Collection", conceived by the curatorial team of Mathaf.
  • "Khatt..." Works from the permanent Collection of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (خط …)
  • "Adel Abdessemed: L'age d'or"
  • "Magdi Mostafa: Sound Element", Project Space, Mathaf, 2013.
  • "Mathaf Permanent Collection: Paintings, sculptures and projects garden",
  • "Mona Hatoum: Turbulence", 2014
  • "Manal AlDowayan: Crash", 2014
  • "Etel Adnan In All Her Dimensions", 2014
  • "The closest i've ever come to a scientific experiment", by Ghadah Alkandari, curated by Ala Younis, 2014.[3]
  • "Shirin Neshat: Afterwards", curated by Abdellah Karroum, 2014-2015.


Education is a key component of Mathaf Museum, with a program of activities conceived around the collection and artistic program. A leading model in art education is developed at Mathaf for scholars and youth, using Arabic and English as working languages.

History of Mathaf[edit]

Mathaf Museum opened in 2010 in a temporary building in the Qatar Foundation's Education City in Doha, transformed by the French architect Jean-François Bodin. The initial collection was gathered by Sheikh Hassan Al-Thani, and QMA provided the conditions of conservation as a public institution chaired by Sheikha Al-Mayassa Bint Hamad Al-Thani.


Research at Mathaf is based on its important collection of modern and contemporary art. The museum offers a fellowship to scholars and curators to explore art history and contribute to seminars in Doha and international conferences on modernities and artistic tendencies. The research at Mathaf aims to fill in gaps in scholars' work on art in the Arabic language as well as sharing existing work by translating local histories into global cultural spaces. Mathaf produces an online Encyclopaedia on Arab Modernity, including biographies and bibliographies of artists from the Qatar Museums Authority collections.

Qatar Artists Archive[edit]

Mathaf's public library offers access to a database and research material on art histories and curatorial projects. Initiated in 2014, the Qatar Artists Archive and Gulf Artists Archive provide an extensive documentation on a selection of artists and the local and regional art scene. This curated project is updated in collaboration with artists and local organisations, including the well-established Katara Art Center in Doha.



External links[edit]

Coordinates: 25°18′38″N 51°25′11″E / 25.31056°N 51.41972°E / 25.31056; 51.41972