Qatar is the region’s current hotspot for art and culture, and the last few weeks have seen an unprecedented number of openings and unveilings. To commemorate the Qatar-MENASA Year of Culture 2022, and in advance of the World Cup in Doha, Qatar Museums has been relentlessly bringing new work, spaces, and experiences to Qatar. One of the hallmarks of this program is Qatar Museums’ public art offerings: 40 new works will be added by the end of the year, raising the number of public art pieces in Qatar to 80. Sarah Foryame, Head of Curatorial Planning of Public Art at Qatar Museums, told us that there are numerous programs for local artists in Qatar to submit proposals, in addition to a mural program to activate urban areas through dialogue. 4 new museums will also be opened and unveiled by 2030, a daring promise that will continue to elevate Qatar Museum’s goal of developing ‘Museums of the Future’.
From exhibitions at Mathaf to the Art Mill Museum 2030 to Olafur Eliasson’s new installation, JDEED outlines our top picks of must-have art experiences in Qatar.
By Ethan Dinçer
Arguably the most talked about work from the last few weeks is Olafur Eliasson’s amazing site-specific contribution to the deserts of al Zubara. Located past the al Zubara Fort and the quaint village reconstruction of Ain Mohammed, Shadows travelling on the sea of the day was inaugurated at a ceremony last week by HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and JDEED had a front-row look at the event and of the work.
Seeing “art as a fierce weapon,” as Eliasson said during a Qatar Creates panel with HE Sheikha Al Mayassa, the work consists of larger-than-life mirrored slabs propped on half circles, aligned to the millimeter to form perfect circles. Looking up at the mirrors to only look down, the work is a critical intervention into climate change and the site itself, as it invites an oscillation of the gaze, one seeking shade from the scorching sun within the structures themselves. Conducting research on the site, its ecologies, and its presence within the surrounding landscape, Eliasson’s process is something only understandable by bearing witness to the work itself, allowing us to sit with the magnificent structures and their thought-provoking construction.
Taysir Batniji presents an amazing show of Palestinian life and identity at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art with work created between 1997 and 2022. Curated by Abdellah Karroum and Lina Ramadan, No Condition is Permanent is part of the art program of the Qatar-MENASA Year of Culture 2022.
Batniji’s works meditate on Palestine and the Palestinian realities, spanning mediums of photography, painting, video, installation, and performance. Beginning with piles of sand at the front of the exhibition, Batniji reminds the viewer of the Palestinian quotidian life all while weaving narratives of collective identity into the works. From a wallpaper of the infamous Abu Ghraib photograph to blocks of soap to transparent keys, No Condition is Permanent embeds the human condition of the settler colonial subject in reality, creating and documenting the memory/ies of history. Building from a reflection of his own unique experiences, Batniji’s work contributes layers to Mathaf’s current offerings.
Opened just last week, JDEED got an insider look at the exhibition highlighting the importance of Baghdad as a city of innovation and heritage over human history. Part of the Qatar-MENASA Year of Culture 2022, the exhibition takes a deep dive, through archaeological renderings, modern and contemporary art, and numerous manuscripts, into Baghdad’s legacy. In constructing a chronological narrative, Baghdad: Eye’s Delight thinks critically about the cosmopolitan population living in Baghdad today, their genealogical roots in history, and what it means to thrive, time and time again, through war and destruction.
Located in the currently functional flour mills of Doha, the Art Mill Museum is set to open in 2030 and feature a vast collection of modern and contemporary art. Part of Qatar Museums’ desire to build capacity around the area – including cafes, schools, and a creative village – there is currently an exhibition in the flour mills composed of invited artists documenting the history and significance of the site. Upon completion in 2030, Qatar Museums hopes to create a massive park around the area, connecting the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art, and the Art Mill Museum by open green space, accessible by walking.
In building these spaces, Qatar Museums is creating “a city and a building at the same time,” according to one of the planners for the Art Mill Museum. The collection for the space was started 40 years ago and features impressive interdisciplinary offerings from 1850 to the present. Expect to see paintings, sculpture, films and film props, fashion, crafts, architecture, and design, among many more.
The current exhibition, on view at the functioning flour mills and at Al Najada Heritage House #15 near Souq Waqif, documents the process and inspirations behind the site of the mills. From Flour to Art, on view at the flour mills, features some of the original sketchbooks that went into the design and ideation of the Art Mill Museum, in addition to 6 commissioned artists reflecting on the site in various mediums.
Renowned Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist presents a new site-specific work, Your Brain to Me, My Brain to You, at the National Museum of Qatar, curated by Tom Eccles and Bouthayna Baltaji. Reflecting on mental health during the pandemic and the need to take breaks, the work invites deep reflection as one wanders through hundreds of hanging “pixels” that are made of 12,000 LED lights strung on cables throughout the gallery. Representing neurons and the inner workings of the brain, these pixels invite visitors to embark on a sustained journey of self reflection and discovery. Changing color in conjunction with a soundscape and abstract video installation of Qatar’s beautiful landscapes, the work is a must see at the National Museum.
Currently in development in Lusail, the Lusail Museum will host a stunning collection of Orientalist art from antiquity to the present. The current exhibition, on view near the Museum of Islamic Art, holds only 1% of the future Lusail Museum’s collection. Featuring a stunning array of paintings, fashion, sculptures, ceramics, and textiles, the Lusail Museum is all about looking at the world’s representation of the region to better understand “who we are, where we come from, and where we are going”. In addition, the Lusail Museum exhibition, open until Spring 2023, has a gallery just on the architectural models of the new museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron.
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