Qatar exhibition combines old and modern art

A view of the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Arab Art in Doha. [Nasser ElGanem/Al-Shorfa]

A view of the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Arab Art in Doha. [Nasser ElGanem/Al-Shorfa]



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Qatari artist Yusuf Ahmed is exhibiting several paintings at the Museum of Modern Arab Art in a show called "Swalif: Qatari Art between Memory and Modernity".

Standing in front of several of his paintings, Yusuf recalls the various aspects of life from the 1960s to the present.

"The exhibition is a rare opportunity to assess the stages of art in Qatar. There are schools that are considered old compared with the country's history that were influenced by a number of art schools in the Arab world. Some were influenced by art schools in Cairo while others were influenced by art schools in Baghdad."

The Swalif exhibition, which focuses on Qatar's history with works from different periods, will be shown through October 29th at the Museum of Modern Arab Art in Doha.

The exhibition presents more than 75 works of art, including oil paintings, watercolors, ceramics and multimedia by 23 Qatari artists. Two of the artists are Sheikh Hassan Bin Mohammed al-Thani, vice chairman of the Qatar Museums Authority Board of Trustees, and Yusuf Ahmed, the exhibition's senior advisor.

The paintings are exhibited in story form spanning four decades, depicting the rapid development of Qatari society as well as how the discovery of oil affected traditional ways of life.

Abdul Wahed al-Mawlawi's 1965 painting "The Cloak Maker" is the oldest painting on display, while Hassan Bin Mohammed's 2006 painting "Falcon" is the most recent.

Artist Mohammed al-Ahbabi said the Swalif exhibition is the dream of many Qatari artists.

"We used to exhibit our paintings in small halls without much attention. This exhibition provided us with a place that can only be described as distinguished," he said.

"The exhibition provides various images of art in Qatar. We are partial to realism in our paintings, but there are also other schools, most notably the symbolism school. We have a great many talents and maybe the exhibition will be a beginning of the creation for more talent."

The museum, located near Education City in Doha, has several exhibition halls, and holds 6,500 rare pieces of art collected from private collections or Arab museums. It opened in December 2010.

"[The museum] is an important achievement because it will encourage a lot of Qatari talent to excel," Ahmed said.

Juma al-Ani, an Iraqi artist residing in Qatar, was fascinated by the museum, which he said "has succeeded in establishing a beginning for understanding the meaning of art in the Arab world."

"The museum is an ideal and wonderful place because it holds rare paintings, some of which were believed to be missing and others that are historical in nature."

One example is Mahmoud Said's 1934 painting called "Shadoof", which depicts Egyptian peasants collecting water with the shadoof from the Nile River.

Despite its collection, Ani said the museum is struggling to attract visitors.

"Unfortunately, attendance is low," he said. "I think there is a lack of awareness about the importance of art, not only in Qatar, but throughout the Arab world. Many people still do not understand the true meaning of art."



    عبد العزيز عبدالرحمن أحمد


    My name is Abd El-Aziz Abd El-Rahman Ahmad Dirit. I was born in Qatar 27/6/1991 at Hamad Hospital and I have been living in Somalia for 10 years. Will Qatar help me? I would like to achieve my dream as a director of films and stories. I have written romantic stories as well in addition to the lifestyle and reality of the situation in Somalia. For example: 1- Most of the people in Somalia do not die because of the bullets from gunfire, but because of hunger and on their way to escape from the battles. They die at the Ethiopian and Sudanese borders and women suffer from raping. They also die at the Libyan desert and the sea before reaching Italy. 2- As for escaping to Yemen, it has only one way, which is taking old ships that cannot reach the borders of Yemen. Even if it reached, the people would be thrown away in the sea and complete their journey swimming. Of course those who do not know how to swim die. Yemen has no jobs or money but most Somalis use Yemen as a bridge to Saudi Arabia. However, if the Saudi police caught anyone one he would be transferred back to Somalia. Of course, this is only a sample of countless stories of the youth of Somalia.

  • محمد مريشد


    Of course we support holding these galleries that combine the old and modern arts of Qatar. I think this unique experience in Qatar will definitely give a good impression of the Qatari art. It will make it easier for gallery goers and interested visitors, whether artists or citizens, to know the process of Qatari art development in the past decades. The organization and preparation of such galleries have to be at the highest level so that the experience succeeds and leaves an imprint in the list of art galleries everywhere. I encourage the organizers of the Qatari gallery to present all the facilities to whoever wants to visit or take part in the gallery in order to make it a big success. We hope to see more of these art experiences in Qatar in the near future. We hope the Arabic countries that do not pay attention to art follow Qatar in hosting art galleries.

  • عبدالعالي جوهر


    I think that this is among the best and most excellent exhibitions, thanks to its works. Thus, we hope to see more exhibitions that include the ancient and the modern artistic works. In fact, the Qatari exhibition has attracted followers and their admiration and interest, thanks to its excellent artistic works.

  • احمد عامر


    It is a good thing to take an interest in art and in organizing exhibitions. This will motivate the artist to produce more works, especially if he will find the required support. Today, Qatar is following an approach that will serve the art interest while combining modern and ancient art. This will convey an honorable image of the Qatari art which has combined the ancient and the modern art. In fact, this will increase the beauty of the exhibition that has revived many ancient artistic works which are the foundation of many arts for others to see. That is why we cannot neglect or ignore this ancient art, which is the base of success because it represents the past period. In fact, we can revive this stage through these artistic works.

  • زيدان


    This exhibition is very beautiful. It was a real exhibition that befits the value of art and the artists. It received all the necessary support in order to make it successful. Those artists tried to introduce the best of their works. As for the other aspects of this fair, it succeeded in introducing all schools of the Qatari traditional and modern art in a dialogue between the past and the present as well as the originality and the modernization. This would play a key role in establishing communication channels between generations and providing a brief glimpse of the history of art in Qatar, while acquainting the visitors and new participants with the importance of the traditional art. The role of this exhibition in dealing with the past and reviving it side by side with the modern art was very good. I support organizing this exhibition regularly and annually until it turns into the best exhibit in the Middle East.

  • شاكر عصام


    The Qataris have to work on preserving the Qatari art, whether modern or old. Art specialists have to communicate and coordinate to preserve art by organizing galleries on a regular basis. This is why I support galleries that combine the old and modern art of Qatar, focusing on many aspects of art and heritage. For example, the traditions and customs of the old art are many, such as fashion, painting, sculpture, pottery and tools that people used in their homes. These tools are part of the Qatari heritage; they were useful to the people, like the kitchen tools, clothes, equipment and kits used in metalwork, carpentry and hunting. Old art includes many other things that represent the heritage of Qatar. This old art has a strong influence on the modern art, as it always connects and takes its genuineness from old art. This is why it is very important to teach our children and educate them about old art and connect it with modern art, so it will continue and develop the artistic senses of all Qataris. It is also important to introduce the tourists to the Qatari arts through holding galleries and festivals showing old and modern art. So, these events are important for tourists to know the beautiful and splendid history of Qatar, represented in costumes, paintings, pictures, pottery and sculptures. It is also important to display the tools and machines used by the fathers and grandfathers in the past; their lifestyles, such as the costumes they wore, their hunting tools, their food, the animals they raised, and also their professions. This is a sophisticated art and we should preserve this history and connect it with modern art, which our children are more familiar with. Such interest in art brings a great value, especially when people come from other societies to visit Qatar and attend art exhibitions, galleries and festivals. So, it is essential to organize such events on an ongoing and permanent basis.

  • البسام


    The efforts of Qatar and taking care of the modern and old art and heritage is extremely important. That is because taking care of the arts of the country and establishing communication between the old and the modern art, especially in Qatar, is very important, as it has a rich and beautiful artistic heritage that is characterized by both modernity and originality.

  • عبدالحكيم


    This exhibition will improve the artistic works in Qatar, especially because it attracts many followers and fans who are longing for this art. Thus, we commend such artistic exhibitions that will receive all the people’s acceptance. They will also develop the Qatari art, which will provide more artistic works. I think that this exhibition will motivate and encourage the Qatari artists to present even more works. That is why I am in favor of holding this wonderful exhibition that has succeeded in combining the ancient and the modern art. And as a Qatari citizen, I think that Qatar needs more interest in this artistic sector, and this will develop the Qatari art.

  • صبحي فريد


    It is a good step to hold an art exhibition in the State of Qatar. This exhibition combines the ancient and the modern art. In fact, this will improve the Qatari art and it will encourage the Qatari artists. Besides, this exhibition includes artistic works of the past era. This is in order to revive these works in this distinguished exhibition and to combine them with the modern art. Thus, this exhibition includes the ancient and modern Qatari art. In fact, this will benefit the art in Qatar through showing these beautiful artistic works that were painted almost forty years ago have been painted for almost forty years . Thus, this exhibition will provide new opportunities for the artistic field in Qatar which is today in urgent need of interest. And such an exhibition will help the spread of the Qatari art. They will also attract fans’ interest, thanks to the mixing between the ancient and modern works. In fact, this will provide a beautiful image that can help the viewer to have an idea about the history of the artistic works.

  • 22``2


    Honestly, I think opening this gallery is a successful step in every sense of the word. I hope it spreads - I mean opening art galleries - throughout all the Arab countries. These galleries should be professionally organized, not just in small or inappropriate places. They should be built in places suitable for art galleries and the artistic innovations, so as not to disparage the artists or their art. I think that the gallery succeeded in integrating the present with the past. It helped, through its paintings, to describe the historical condition of Qatar in the past years. The painting expressed a great historic narration; the feather of the painter and the chisel of the sculptor were used to describe the stages of development in time and place in Qatar. The Qatari artists succeeded in delivering the message to the audience through their superb artistic works. The biggest obstacle that any artist complains about is the small number of Arab viewers coming to the gallery, as they do not appreciate or understand art and its meanings. This is not a defect in the Arab personality; it is due to the hard conditions surrounding the Arabs, and these conditions have made art the last priority for people who are busy in their daily lives and hard living conditions. This is why most Arab citizens have been deprived of appreciating art. We hope that this gallery will meet with success in the future, because it is a good step in the right direction of flourishing and spreading art through these galleries to attract people as well as artists.

  • dadew


    Holding art festivals and exhibits is proof of sophistication and civilization; they show the history of these countries by combining ancient arts with modern arts. This proves the extent of awareness, advancement and attention given to arts in general. Therefore, I am in favor of holding the Qatari exhibit, which combines the old and modern Qatari arts. I consider this to be a positive leading step that will establish a strong base for art in Qatar, through giving attention to the old arts, which I consider to be the base and the pillar of modern arts. Opening the Sawalif exhibit in Qatar proves that attention is now being given again to arts and culture in Qatar. In my opinion, this exhibit will be a good start so art exhibits in Qatar can be brought to the forefront again. As such, opening this exhibit will have a great role in the continuation of the connection between the old arts, with the paintings and artistic work produced by artists years ago, and the modern arts, represented in the works that have just been produced recently. This exhibit had a great role in restoring the works of some great pioneers to the artistic scene once more, through their exhibition in the Sawalif exhibit. We are in favor of holding this exhibit, which has been one of the best exhibits held in Qatar, because it shed light on the old arts along with modern arts, and it succeeded in making the past meet the present in a very beautiful way, as the old artistic works and paintings added a great deal of beauty to this exhibit. This gave the chance to many Qatari artists, who saw that establishing this exhibit was a starting point from which many people will reconsider restoring and redeveloping the Qatari arts. This is the moment many of those concerned with arts have been waiting for.

  • عبد الرحمن


    I’m sure the Qatari art exhibit, which combined the old with the modern Qatari arts, has been a step in the right direction. It will have a positive impact on the general condition of arts in Qatar, which I expect will witness many artistic works and exhibits soon, because Qatari arts are historic and very valuable. It is beautiful to see an exhibit like the currently held Qatari exhibit that combines old and modern arts and presents them in a contemporary way that mixes the old with the modern.

  • r b j


    I am in favor of these exhibitions that combine the ancient and modern art. It is important to link ancient and modern art, in order to benefit the largest possible number of members of our current generation. This can be achieved through continuing the careers of old artists. Thus, it is important to hold exhibitions in order to revive art. In fact, the State of Qatar has always taken interest in such things that are related to old art, such as painting, sculpture, pottery, clothing and heritage. Besides, Qataris live in old places that show the ancient heritage and they use old pots and pottery. This is in addition to the simple furniture and clothing. And the children also played simple games in the streets and districts. Thus, I think that it is important to link the old and modern art in order to make Qataris remember their past, which represents their history and culture. That’s why it is important to hold exhibitions in order to attract Qataris and tourists alike. This is also in order to reflect Qatari history, which has witnessed many stages during all these years.

  • moslim


    I am in favor of holding these exhibitions which include everything that is modern and ancient at the same time. This is in order to link the two periods of the State of Qatar. Thus, the holding of this exhibition is a good and fruitful idea that can benefit the Qatari art. This will also have a big role in taking interest in the ancient and modern art.

  • rg


    This exhibition was organized to highlight the originality that was enjoyed by the state of Qatar over many years, so that the Qatari people could get acquainted with the various aspects of life inherited from the lives of their fathers and grandfathers. They had contributions and activities that were employed in the building of this country, through the artistic and scientific experiences by which they were affected through contacting the cultures of other countries, especially those close to the state of Qatar. The fine art in the country was influenced by the artistic schools that existed in the Arab world, including art schools in Cairo as well as art schools in Baghdad. The Qatari people were able to take advantage of these schools of art, whose cultural influence has been reflected on developing the art aspects in Qatar, which leads to enriching the cultural and artistic movement. There are a lot of artistic paintings which date back more than 50 years, that were left by the parents and grandparents. Today, it represents the old artistic side of Qatar, and it represents the development stages in the life of the society and the environment, as well as some traditional methods in the life of the Qatari people in some advanced periods of their lives, embodied in the beautiful artistic paintings painted by the artists of that period.

  • serwan


    The exhibition has introduced many of the modern artistic works, including paintings, water and ceramic works, and other various works by a large number of fine artists from the Qatari people, as well as the officials of the state of Qatar, who are keen on paying great attention to this exhibition, by providing a special place so that the visitor to this exhibition can enjoy seeing the originality of the past, surrounded by the fragrance of the present, and the artistic and environmental creativity reached by the country, which is embodied in the brush of the inspired and creative Qatari artist, who felt that he must do his duty towards his country through these beautiful artistic works. Also, this beautiful idea is considered one of the matters that lead to motivating and encouraging other artistic talents to create and emerge and to supply the artistic movement with everything that is good and useful, as these steps will lead to a successful delivery of the art to the entire world in the future.

  • ii


    I certainly and greatly support and am proud of this Qatari exhibition, which combines all types of art together. It is really great to see attention paid to Arab artistic works in this way, and we hope another exhibition will be organized to let the people and the Arabs become familiar with the ancient Qatari art.

  • تيسير


    This cultural exhibition which was held in Qatar is very important in linking the past with the present. It also links the past generation with the new generation in many aspects, such as aiding communication between the two generations and spreading the old and new ideas. This is in order to create new artistic ideas that can encourage Qatari art. In fact, we need to encourage art in order to achieve development. This art is a real communication between generations. That’s why I encourage the continuous holding of such artistic exhibitions in the country. This is in order to host the participants, whether they are youth or professionals, Arab or foreign. In general, art is a culture. Thus, this exhibition has enjoyed all the support and interest from the governmental officials, who have provided the required support in order to achieve the exhibition’s success. In fact, this exhibition has achieved a great success. That’s why this experience must be repeated, in order to witness the participation of those who missed the exhibition. This is also in order to increase the number of visitors in future exhibitions.

  • رعد الناصري


    Congratulations to the Qataris, who have held this amazing exhibition which includes all the kinds of arts, whether ancient or modern. And we hope to witness more exhibitions in all the Qatari regions and provinces.

  • محمد


    Yes, Qatar, the country which is small in size, great in achievements and progress, is certainly seeking to rank first today. However, heritage and originality are always required. Such art galleries that unite ancient and modern art will have a significant role in teaching new generations about the originality of ancient art and treasures, and at the same time in teaching older generations about modern sophisticated art, which is very advanced. They will also be a source of attraction for tourists, especially those living in Qatar. It is by such exhibitions that tourists will know that Qatar has a considerable artistic heritage, and at the same time it has modern art. On the other hand, the establishment of such art galleries will have a major role in supporting and significantly developing the art movement, especially in Qatar, which has evolved in everything. Thus, art still needs more attention to reach the required level and represent Qatari art and all the other sectors in the country.

  • نصر


    Combining the originality of the past and the sophistication of the present is what was intended by this gallery, which exhibited many artistic works and paintings that included old artifacts. A large number of artists participated in this exhibition, which captured the interest of everybody. I believe this gallery was successful and I suggest that more of its kind be organized in the State of Qatar and even the whole Arab world, because it is really a successful project that deserves all praise.

  • lona


    Of course, I am in favor of holding the Qatari exhibition, which deserves all the interest, especially since it includes old and modern arts. This can show the continuous development of Qatar in all aspects, such as sport and art. Thus, we hope for all the success for our country Qatar, God willing.