Qatar’s second most ambitious museum currently open is the Mathaf, literally ‘museum’ in Arabic. Although it is completely in line with Qatar’s ambitious plans to build a new museum for contemporary art, currently the Mathaf is located in a converted school building. Although this building was not purpose-designed, it is a very pleasant place, proportionally able to stand comparison with the Doha Museum of Islamic Art. The museum’s founder is Sheikh Hassan Al Thani, a major patron of the arts, a long-time collector of contemporary art and the vice chairman of the Qatar Museums Authority.
In full, the museum calls itself the ‘Arab Museum of Modern Art – Artworks from the Arab World’. Despite this full name, at the moment of writing it hosted an exhibition of works by the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab. However, Cai had dedicated several new works to the Arab World and described the exhibition as re-imaging the historical relations between China and the Gulf Region.
The exhibition was another example of how high art and wide audience can be compatible. Cai Guo-Qiang’s work with fireworks, however subtle in its own context, easily appeals to an uninitiated audience, including youth, making the museum family-friendly, as well as to the seasoned observer.
Despite its somewhat remote location, the museum appears to be well attended, perhaps comparatively even more by Qataris than by tourists and local expats.
At the moment of writing the museum’s first acting director and chief curator, Mrs Wassan Al Khudairi, had left her position.
Nota that the location, near Education City, is a bit more inland compared to most of the current main parts of the city.