Mat haf : Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha is dedicati ng the ground floor of the museum to a new dis play of solo exhibiti ons feat uring pioneering artists from the Museum’s Permanent Collecti on. FACT learns more ab out the beautiful works on dis play …
Focus: Works from the Mathaf Collection, offers a glimpse into some of the museum’s most iconic works by combining a series of solo shows that highlight key artists in the collection.
Presented by Qatar Museums under the leadership of its Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the exhibition will feature the work of five of the Arab world’s most ground-breaking and influential modern and contemporary artists: Faraj Daham (Qatar); Saloua Raouda Choucair (Lebanon); Inji Efflatoun (Egypt); Farid Belkahia (Morocco); and Abdulhalim Al- Radwi (Saudi Arabia).
Each gallery in the museum’s ground floor exhibition space is dedicated to one artist and touches upon specific themes in their practice, allowing visitors to experience their productions through the lens of curatorial interpretations of historical contexts, materials and aesthetics, while interrogating the museum’s role by building academic and curatorial research Focus: Works from the Mathaf Collection, offers a glimpse into some of the museum’s most iconic works by combining a series of solo shows that highlight key artists in the collection. on Mathaf ’s permanent collection.
The exhibition offers diverse curatorial interpretations, with one of five curators assigned to each solo show. These are Mathaf Director Abdellah Karroum, Mathaf curators Laura Barlow, Fatma Mostafawi and Leonore-Namkha Beschi, and independent curator Mayssa Fattouh. Abdellah Karroum, Director of Mathaf, says: “The role of this exhibition series is not only to conserve art over time, but to suggest paths for revisiting, re-experiencing, and seeing the selected artworks in light of current events and curatorial readings.”
Each of the five exhibitions on show at Mathaf explores multiple artistic approaches towards major topics of modernity including identity, invention and experimentation in art.
Born in 1956, Faraj Daham was part of the early generation of Qatari talents to be sent by the government to pursue higher studies abroad as well as one of the founders of the Qatar Fine Arts Society, established in 1980. He graduated with a degree in Theatre Stage Design in 1983 from the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts in Kuwait and a Master of Fine Arts in 1988 at Ball State University, Indiana, in the United States. Daham retains an active role in Doha’s art community, mentoring young Qatari artists and contributing his writings to journals and newspapers while continuing to participate in local and international solo and group exhibitions across the United States, Europe, and Asia.
His work has been acquired by public and private collections and his latest works were part of the exhibitions Here There at Al Riwaq, Doha (2015) and City at Casa Arabe, Madrid (2014). The result is a rich tactile presence combined with visually striking compositions of socially engaged narratives. Daham’s oeuvre exceeds geographical or institutional labels as a singular creation inscribed in the artist’s internal and external present.
A painter, feminist, and political activist, Inji Efflatoun was Born on April 16, 1924, in Cairo, and raised in an upperclass family. She received her secondary education at the LycéeFrançais before joining the Faculty of Arts at Cairo University in the early 1940s. She developed an interest in literature and political history at a young age, and studied painting under the artists Kamel el-Tilmisani, Margo Veillon, and Hamed Abdalla, who influenced her artistic practice with its claims for social freedom and unrestricted expression. Between 1942 and 1943 she exhibited with the Egyptian Surrealist Group Art and Liberty, which broke with well-established orders. She also took part in the Biennale of São Paolo in 1953 alongside renowned Egyptian artist Mahmoud Said.
In 1959, she was secretly arrested and imprisoned for four years, and she painted throughout all her incarceration. Efflatoun’s paintings are strongly inspired by the social reality of the Egyptian working class and prison life, especially of women and their daily struggle. The artist died in Cairo on 17 April 1989. A selection of her later artworks was featured in the exhibition All the World’s Futures at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.
Born in Marrakech, Morocco, in 1934, Farid Belkahia is considered one of Morocco’s most significant and prolific artists. Throughout his lifetime, Belkahia worked primarily with copper, which he delicately sculpted, and leather, which he stretched and painted using natural pigments. Belkahia trained as a painter at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, in Paris, from 1955 to 1959 before continuing his studies in Prague between 1959 and 1962.
In 1962, Belkahia returned to newly independent Morocco, where he settled in Casablanca and directed the city’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts until 1974. There, Belkahia and his colleagues, including Mohammed Chebaa and Mohammed Melehi, broke with the European-focused and colonial-era curriculum and introduced new subjects and courses, training students for the first time in Moroccan art, architecture, and craft.
In 1966, Belkahia, Chebaa, and Melehi – members of what is called the Ecole de Casablanca – organised an outdoor exhibition of abstract paintings in Marrakech’s public plaza, Jemaa El Fna. Belkahia exhibited across the globe during his lifetime, participating in major exhibitions and cultural events like the 1969 Festival Panafricain in Algiers and the First Arab Biennial in Baghdad in 1974. Belkahia died in Marrakech in 2014. After his death, his wife, author Rajae Ben chemsi, established the Farid Belkahia Foundation for research. Mathaf holds the largest public collection of Belkahia’s work.
Born in Mecca in 1939, Abdulhalim Radwi graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arte in Rome with a degree in art décor in 1964. He later received his Professorship degree from Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid, in 1979. In 1967, the Saudi Ministry of Information asked Radwi to establish the first art center in Jeddah, named the Fine Art Center. Radwi both directed and taught alongside other artists at the center at between 1968 and 1974, but it closed in 1975 upon Radwi’s departure to Madrid to pursue his advanced studies.
In Madrid, he also served as director of the city’s Arab Artists Association. After returning from Madrid, Radwi directed the Saudi Fine Art Society in Jeddah (1980-1992). Radwi is well known as a sculptor because of the numerous public artworks he designed for several cities in Saudi Arabia. He won the third prize at the first Ibiza Biennale in 1964 and received several honourary prizes such as a Comenda do Merito Arariboia from the mayor of Rio de Janeiro in 1984 for his contributions to the arts and poetry. He was named the 1997/1998 International Man of the Year by the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England. He died in Jeddah in 2006.
Saloua Raouda Choucair
Saloua Raouda Choucair was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1916. Studies in natural sciences, early experiences in the humanities, and mentorship by artist Mustafa Farrukh established a progressive, outspoken intellectual and creative perspective expressed through the making of objects and writing. During formal art studies at the École nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, from 1948 and work with avantgarde peers in the inauguration of L’Atelier de l’art abstrait, Paris in 1950, Choucair continued experimenting with geometric abstraction through the fracturing of space in painting. These experiences solidified her understanding that the origins of modernism and abstraction are located in Arab art and architecture, as outlined in Choucair’s text, How Arabs Understood Visual Art, published in 1951, the year she returned to Beirut and began transitioning from painting to sculpture.
Choucair continued to work in Beirut for the duration of her active career until the mid 1990s, experimenting with tangible domestic and public sculptural forms for individual and collective engagement to push the potential of existence beyond established societal systems. Three of the artist’s sculptures are installed in Beirut. Choucair exhibited internationally throughout her career. Continuing to reside in Beirut, Choucair celebrates her 100th birthday in June 2016.
GO: A number of educational events and initiatives will be taking place as part of this series of exhibitions. Visit www.mathaf.org.qa for more information.