Arab Museum Approves Nudity
DOHA, QATAR – The Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art has created controversy by announcing that it will exhibit works containing nudity and politically radical ideas. They will not be subject to censorship, according to Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Chief Curator of the Mathaf.
The museum was founded by powerful Qatari art patron and vice president of the Qatar Museum Authority, Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al-Thani and it is due to open in Qatar’s capital, Doha, on December 30th.
Based in Qatar, looking forward into the 21st century, we want to offer a platform for all kinds of local and international visitors, scholars, artists, collectors and enthusiasts to meet, converse and engage more closely with the art of the Arab world and beyond.
The museum aspires to highlight and share contemporary art by Arabs and artists living in the Middle East that might challenge some preconceptions. It will also serve as a research center, an exciting prospect for the regional arts community. Mathaf, which simply means “museum” in Arabic, will be housed in a in a 5,500-square meter former school that has been converted by the French architect Jean-Francois Bodin.
The inaugural exhibition, titled, “Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art,” will include works from Mathaf’s permanent collection of over 6,200 pieces dating from the late 1800s to the middle of the 20th century, all of which were donated from Sheik Hassan’s private collection.
Skeptics have wondered aloud whether politics will play a role in the acquisition and exhibition of certain works, excluding pieces that might be considered politically or sexually provocative. “Sajjil,” which roughly translated as the act of recording features paintings and sculptures by more than 100 key modernists, is aimed at bringing contemporary Arabic art to a wider audience.
“Our first exhibition, ‘Sajjil’ is about the interaction and about the contribution of Arab artists to a larger art historical context,” Al-Khudhairi said. “By making it public, we are able to open it up to everyone in Qatar, in the region, internationally.
“Crucially, adds Al-Khudhairi, it will also draw attention to a contemporary art scene that developed in parallel with European movements but has been largely overlooked. “The exhibition will give exposure to these artists to fit into history a period of time that’s missing from art historical books and accounts,” she said.
“The collection has nudes; the collection has political works. These things are part of the collection — we can’t deny it “We are not trying to present some sort of new canon, this is why we stress multiple modernities and contemporary art. She added that Mathaf was willing to risk criticism for showing controversial works.
“I think there will be all kinds of feedback and the museum is about creating a space for dialogue; a platform for discussion,” Al-Khudhairi said.
Saleh Barakat, a Beirut-based leading expert in contemporary Arab art, described the museum’s opening as “an exceedingly important moment in the history of modern and contemporary art.”
- Qatar Looks to Balance Its Arts Scene (nytimes.com)
- Defining a Culture in Doha’s Desert (nybooks.com)
Here in Shepherdstown, WV, we have very few major local conflicts… but one I discovered
shortly after moving here close to three years ago was the amount of complaining by a few locals being coordinated by their State Delegate John Doyle over the design of the Phase I Arts Center building at the University. Most of the original arguing went on before I moved to town… when I got here, drawn by the Nationally famous Contemporary American Theater Festival and the wonderful intellectual capacity of this small village (which was far superior to Hagerstown, MD, where Elly and I were living), the Phase I building was already about to open and, over the years, we have been to theater performances, art exhibits and related receptions there and found it a great structure and perfect art location.
Now, a number of locals who live, apparently, in 19th Century Houses across Rte 480 and who want Shepherdstown to stay a century-and-a-half-years-old in design, have returned to the presentation made at the University tonite to announce Phase II, and raised their issues again about the architectural design, copper shingling, round rooflines, etc. However, a relatively large number of residents, yours truly included, spoke in favor of the buildings and completely outnumbered the complainers.
The Phase II building will include a new Arena Theater (around 180 seats) which will be used by CATF in the summer and by the University the rest of the year; scenery, prop and costume shops; upper and lower lobbies; sculpture and painting studios; classrooms and more.
Dr. Suzanne Shipley, Shepherd’s President, introduced Doug Moss, Architect for Holzman Moss Bottino, who
presented the building design, and then answered questions, getting stuck in about 20 minutes of brouhaha from the design protesters. Ed Herendeen and a few of the CATF people, Mayor Jim Auxer and a number of other locals listened closely to the rest of the presentation, asked questions about handicap access and other design elements, and, in general, were impressed with the designs.
Phase II of the Center for Contemporary Arts is slated to be built on Shepherd’s West Campus at the intersection of Route 480, Shepherd Grade, and West Campus Drive. The second phase of the building is funded by an $11 million state appropriation – and, to be fair, Delegate Doyle has worked very hard to obtain the State funding and should be praised for his fund raising activities.
I’m looking forward to Phase II being constructed and know that, some years down the road, we’ll be entering the complaint fray with Phase III, which will add two more theaters and three more buildings to the mix.