There was great excitement at Saturday’s opening of Qatari artist Masoud Al Bulushi’s “Unreachable Mirage” exhibition at W Doha’s Art29 gallery as a large number of established and emerging artists thronged the launch of the pioneering artist’s solo show at one of the newest art spaces in Doha.
Most of Bulushi’s 24 paintings on display depicted dual images of women — one wearing batoola the other devoid of face cover — as if emblematic of the country’s advancing local art scene, that while it opens its doors to new concepts and forms, it remains true to its roots.
Bulushi’s is just one of the many art exhibitions that launched this year with more yet to open in the coming months which is evident of the country’s ever vibrant art landscape.
Nurturing local artists, bringing in the best in global art
For sure, art lovers in Qatar and from other parts of the world are in a for a big treat as Qatar Museums announced to launch a wide array of exhibitions next month. Four of its institutions will host six exhibitions beginning on March 15 with “Picasso’s Studios” at Fire Station, set to take visitors into the workspaces where Pablo Picasso achieved his creative breakthroughs through his major artworks which will be on show until July 1 as part of Qatar-France 2020 Year of Culture.
It will be followed by simultaneous opening of three exhibitions on March 24 at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.
This set of exhibitions which will run until August 26 comprises “Yto Barrada: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nougat,” the artist’s first solo exhibition in the Gulf region; “Huguette Caland: Faces and Places,” an overview of four decades of Caland’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, and clothing designs; and “Lived Forward: Art and Culture in Doha from 1960-2020,” an exhibition which delves into generations of artists, intellectuals and cultural activists who played a major role in activating the cultural scene in Doha spanning over half a century.
On March 25, “A Falcon’s Eye: Tribute to Sheikh Saoud Al Thani” will open at the Museum of Islamic Art. Running until January 2 next year, this exhibition celebrates the outstanding accomplishments of one of Qatar’ greatest collectors who was largely responsible for laying the foundation for Qatar Museum’s world class collections.
Finally on March 26, “Splendours of the Ancient East: Antiquities from the Al Sabah Collection” will open at the National Museum of Qatar. On view until July 1, the exhibition features around 170 priceless objects in gold, silver, glass, and precious stones collected by Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and Sheikha Hussa Al Salem Al Sabah of Kuwait.
The progress the local art scene has seen in recent years can be attributed to several initiatives of Qatar Museums, whose support to homegrown artists is undeniable with several residencies it currently runs both here and abroad, providing artists their needed exposure as well as widening their horizons.
The beginning of the year saw the exhibition of Qatari architect, animator and designer Mohammed Faraj Al Suwaidi at Fire Station which marked his successful residency at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in Manhattan, New York.
His “Digital Transactions” exhibition reflected new concepts he explored inspired by his fecund New York residency experience which immediately followed his residency at Fire Station.
In the same vein, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) launched ‘Ektashif’ aimed at inspiring the next generation of creators by exposing them to new forms of art. In January, the first batch of local artists who were under the programme displayed their stunning, diverse artworks which were a product of their 10-day journey to a number of historic sites in India.
The artists included Abeer Al Kuwari, Eman Al Saad, Haifa Al Khuzai, Jameela Al Ansari, Maryam Al Sada, Maryam Al Majed and Shaikha Al Kuwari.
The National Museum of Qatar has explored myriad possible ways of telling the country’s story, one of which is through the vehicles that dominated Doha’s roads in the past several decades on show at NMoQ’s Baraha Square. The exhibition is presented in partnership with Mawater Centre — an entity established by the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
Through its various initiatives, the Ministry of Culture and Sports has been nurturing young talents including students. Recently, it launched the fourth Visual Art Creators Exhibition at Katara Building 10 featuring works by more than 470 students and 240 teachers from 148 government and 18 private schools.
Melting pot of culture and the arts
One of the key players in Qatar’s burgeoning art scene, the Cultural Village Foundation (Katara) kicked off the year on the right foot launching the Katara Art Laboratory — a fresh initiative aimed at further enriching the country’s art scene by discovering talents and gifted artists and promoting innovation in the art community.
The art lab has started offering training courses and workshops to aspiring artists of different ages and backgrounds with the major aim of creating a generation of exceptional artists who will someday make their mark locally and globally.
In just over a month’s time, Katara already hosted diverse art exhibitions which not only promoted appreciation of visual art but more importantly put a spotlight on pressing issues as well as crystallised public understanding and opinion.
Palestinian artist Nameer Qassim’s “Suspicion” exhibition in January shed light on the challenges facing the Palestinians especially children who mostly suffer the brunt of Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories.
Katara has always stressed its important task of acting as a bridge between different cultures through hosting artists from different countries. This was again shown at the recent 12-day exhibition by Istanbul-based Italian artist Luigi Ballarin whose works showcased at “Magnificent Cultures” were a way to build a bridge between East and West.
Art appreciation at Katara goes beyond the four walls of its galleries with a galaxy of public artworks, the most recent addition to which is the colossal hyper-realisitic mural by internationally acclaimed Argentine muralist Martin Ron. Unveiled on January 24, the 11-metre painting of an Arabian oryx bursting out of the Building 40 wall was, for Ron, symbolic of the admirable strength of Qatar and its people.
In yet another pioneering initiative, Katara partnered with Pallas Arts – Qatar’s first registered arts brokerage – to host the first ever Katara Global Art Fair which will see the participation of many artists from far and wide for a noble cause.
Art connoisseurs and enthusiasts were given a peek into what to expect come October through a preview exhibition held the previous month which featured over a hundred works by dozens of artists from around the world.
Following this exhibition was the “Spanish Artists in Doha” show in which the country’s art community immersed into Spain’s vibrant contemporary art world through the paintings created by 14 artists from different parts of Spain.
The “Calligraphy and Illumination” exhibition which concluded yesterday at Gallery 1 of Building 19 has promoted deep appreciation among visitors and artists of the beauty of Arabic calligraphy and its history and varied forms through dozens of works by Qatari calligraphers.
A further boost to local art scene
With their own unique initiatives, private galleries and art companies are also playing a vital role in the country’s constantly developing art field.
Al Markhiya Gallery, the oldest privately owned gallery in the country, has been offering the art community richly layered collections of art from Qatari and Arab artists via its year-round shows. As diverse as the styles are the themes of the watercolour paintings of 11 participating artists being displayed in its ongoing show at its Katara gallery.
On the other hand, Al Markhiya’s Fire Station gallery has launched an exhibition titled “Narrative” which features profound works by celebrated Qatari artist Ali Hassan and Jordanian artist Hilda Hiary.
Anima Gallery which is located at The Pearl-Qatar is another exciting art space which represents emerging and established artists working in a broad range of styles and mediums. Its currently running exhibition “Black and White with Little Shades of Grey” featuring Qatari artist Yasser Al Mulla is a must see show.
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