With a penchant for manicuring its international profile, Qatar just opened doors to Mathaf, the Middle East’s first full-scale institution of modern art. Flanked by its sense of pride in being the little nation that was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup, and the stunningly elegant Museum of Islamic Art recently built by I.M. Pei, Mathaf is a testament to the vivacious and rapidly changing Qatari landscape.
Situated amidst the many notable academic institutions that make up Education City, Mathaf’s building style is an antithesis to the Gulf region’s way of doing things. As buildings there are constantly being razed and built a new, Mathaf’s space is currently a modestly refashioned former school. Harking to academia, and contributing to a negligible history of a young nation, it brings a new sense of understanding to the Gulf’s perception of public space.
The museum aims to bring a comprehension of art that transcends a current perception in the region that sees as art as more of a leisurely pursuit. A research center that’s part of the museum will host workshops and lectures in hopes to ignite a much needed new understanding of art in the Arab world. Beyond the liaison of private galleries and solitary art initiatives scattered throughout the Middle East, Mathaf will serve as an pivotal resource for Arab artists, developing their talents and showcasing their work alike.
Focusing on contemporary art, the museum boasts a collection of more than 6,000 pieces of work representing modern Arab Art, spanning the 1840s to present day.