DOHA Seventy-eight artworks, depicting the evolution of Qatari art from mid-1960s to early 2000, went on display at the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art on Sunday. The exhibition titled 'Swalif: Qatari Art Between Memory and Modernity' narrates the perceptions and vision of 23 artists about the rapidly changing Qatari society, landscape and lifestyles.
It is the second exhibition to open in Mathaf's building near Education City since the museum opened at the end of last year. 'Swalif' presents the rarest among the rare artworks in the country. The oldest work is "The Bisht Maker" (1965) by Abdulwahed al Mawlawi. While, 'Saqr' (2006), a masterpiece by HE Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali al Thani, vice- chairperson of Qatar Museums Authority and Mathaf's patron, is the newest. The work was presented during the 2006 Asian Games held in Doha. The collection is open for public viewing free of charge until October 29.
Speaking at a press conference held prior to the opening of the event, renowned Qatari artist and Senior Curatorial Advisor of the expo Yousef Ahmad said the artworks housed in the three galleries of Mathaf were among the very first collection gathered by Mathaf's patron HE Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali al Thani and himself "which makes the collection one of a kind."
He added, "The unveiling of the collection on the 14th night of the Holy Month of Ramadan, which is a very important occasion and special for Muslims, marks the relevance of the latest exhibition of Mathaf. The event provides a link between the memories of Qatar of yore and its evolution into modernity. There is a story behind every artwork on display at this expo. This event recognises the artistry of Qatar and the future of the Qatari art scene," he added.
Earlier, Fatima Mostafawi, one of the assistant curators of the expo, stressed that the 'Swalif' aims to inspire and provide a venue for fruitful discussions on Qatari culture and art among locals and guests.
'Swalif' means informal, friendly conversation and stories. She said, "This event is a good opportunity for visitors to celebrate Qatari art in an international context. The collection provides a glimpse of what has been achieved by the Qatari artist and what they can achieve in the future."
The first gallery features collection from mid-60s to 70s. It includes the works of Jassim Zaini, one of the first Qatari artists the government sent abroad for art training. Zaini was one of the few artists who witnessed and documented the social and economic transformation of Qatar during the 1950s and 1960s, after the discovery of oil. It also features the four paintings on Ramadan by Sultan al Sulaiti, a founding member of the Qatar Fine Arts Society, and two of the works of Majid Hilal al Naimi who died in 1998 at the young age of 42.
The second gallery illustrates the versatility of the Qatari artists from 1980s to early 1990s. It includes the works of Yousef Ahmad, such as his two paintings depicting his reaction to the ethnic cleansing at Sarajevo titled 'Screams of Sarajevo'.
A ceramic work by Ahmed al Haddad is also on display. According to Mostafawi, the odd-shaped ceramic was intended to be made into a cup-like object but since it was the artist's first time to use a Qatari mud he 'overcooked' his work. Also in the gallery are the works of Ali Hassan, renowned Qatari calligrapher. Mostafawi said, "It was in 1990s that printing was introduced in Qatar. Ali Hassan's works depict this development."
A documentary showing interviews with the artists whose artworks are featuring in the expo is also being shown at the venue.
The third gallery presents the country's finest collection from late 1990s to early 2000. Aside from the large-sized paintings of mixed media, the centre of attraction in the last part of the expo is the work of HE Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali al Thani titled 'Saqr', a huge falcon-inspired dress which was first presented during the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.
"The exhibition represents a great opportunity for visitors to explore the development of modern art in Qatar. Mathaf will showcase some of the best artworks by Qatari artists, demonstrating that there has been a vibrant art scene in Qatar going back several decades," the Mathaf's patron said in an official statement.