One of the most promising museums in the Middle East, the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha was established by Qatar Museums. Located in a former school building that was partially transformed by French architect Jean-François Bodin, it holds an important collection donated by its founder H.E. Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani that encompasses the finest examples of modern and contemporary art from North Africa and the Middle East.
Envisioned as the space for a dialog and knowledge production, Mathaf pays enormous efforts to produce relevant exhibitions and the following programs that challenge the contemporary issues. Recently, the museum opened three intriguing exhibitions to celebrate their 10th anniversary - the two retrospectives of established female artists Huguette Caland and Yto Barrada, and the extensive survey of the works made by Doha-based artists since the 1960s until the present day.
Curated by Mohammed Rashid Al Thani with Noora Abdulmajeed, this survey is Huguette Caland's first solo exhibition in the Arab world. For the occasion, the six decades-long production consisting of paintings, drawings, caftans, smocks and sculptures, and a selection of never before exhibited works, was analyzed to be adequately presented around Beirut, Paris, and California, three toponyms that define Caland's personal and professional experience.
Best known for her eroticized abstractions of feminist provenance, the artist’s biography is additionally intriguing as she was the daughter of the first president of the independent Republic of Lebanon.
Another retrospective focused on the work of Moroccan-French artist Yto Barrada is curated by Laura Barlow and Wadha Al-Aqeedi, the assistant curator. The artist is best known for her postminimalist installations based on the explorations of architecture, self-education, paleontology, botany, and modernist heritage.
Under the title My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nougat, the exhibition includes multimedia works questioning the concepts of regeneration and growth coinciding with social and geological transformation.
The third exhibition curated by Lina Ramadan is entirely focused on the Mathaf Collection in the context of the articulation of local artistic impulses and collaborations that have been going on in Doha in the past sixty years.
The installment includes works made by the inter-generational group of artists such as Gazbia Sirry, Faiq Hassan, Jassim Zaini, Saleh Taher, Ibrahim Al Salahi, Dia Al Azzawi, Khalifa Al Qattan, Abdulwahed Al Mawlawi, Hassan Al Mulla, Youssef Ahmad, Wafika Sultan Al Essa, Adam Henein, and many others.
Beyond their regular program that includes extensive education modules, and academic research, the museum is developing the pioneering Mathaf Encyclopedia, a bilingual online database of modern and contemporary artists from the collection. This project is based on a postcolonial approach that tends to provide multiple perspectives on the art history of the region and further.
Lived Forward: Art and Culture in Doha from 1960-2020, Huguette Caland: Faces and Places, and Yto Barrada: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nougat will be on display at Mathaf in Doha until 30 November 2020.
Featured image: Yto Barrada - Jeu de construction Thérèse, (Thérèse Unit Blocks), 2017. Wood, paint, Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery. All images courtesy Mathaf.