Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art

Mathaf - The Guardian of the Fertile Crescent and Al-Safina (the ship)
Museum facade

Finally I had a chance to visit the new addition to Doha’s attraction . If Abu Dhabi buys the franchises of Guggenheim and Louvre Museums, Doha has its own museum. Mathaf (is pronounced ‘mat-haf’ and means “museum”) opens the door for public since December 30, 2010.

Quoted press release from Qatar Museum Authority:

“Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art presents exhibitions and programs that explore modern Arab art. Its collection of more than 6,000 works represents major trends and sites of production of modern Arab art, spanning the 1840s to the present. In addition to its collection and special exhibitions, Mathaf’s on-site and online programs will reinforce its role as a center for global dialogue, research and scholarship. Through these activities, which are designed to engage artists, writers, students, scholars and the widest possible public audience, Mathaf will contribute to the cultural landscape of the Gulf region, the Middle East and the Arab Diaspora.

The Museum will temporarily occupy a former school building in Doha’s Education City, which was re-designed for Mathaf by the French architect Jean-François Bodin. QMA will determine its plans for the construction of a future, permanent home for the Museum at a later date.

Mathaf is the outgrowth of more than two decades of activity by QMA’s Vice-Chairperson, His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al-Thani. The collection was adopted originally by Qatar Foundation, who safeguarded it for four years before QMA took the Museum on as a Museums Authority project, at which point the current partnership was formed. As the catalyst of this project, Sheikh Hassan has encouraged creativity in Qatar and throughout the region with his longtime commitment to Arab artists.

Overseeing the establishment and opening of Mathaf is QMA Chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.”

When I visited Mathaf on 4 March 2011, Mathaf featured Sajjil: A Century of Modern Art : an inaugural exhibition of highlights from the collection, featuring works by more than 100 artists and representing pivotal experiments in aesthetics. Sajjil, an Arabic word meaning the act of recording, initiates a space in which various narratives can be articulated in an effort to allow Arab modern art its historical place within a wider tradition of art history.

Ismail Fatah’s the guardian of the fertile crescent (two statues at the very foreforent of museum) welcomed me when I just alighted at the parking lots. To the right is Adam Henein’s “al-safina” (the ship). Al-Safina is based on approximately 64 blocks of pink and black granite quarried in Aswan, Egypt. On and around the blocks stand twenty granite and bronze sculptures of animals, human figures, plants and abstract forms. This sculpture is immediately recognizable as a ship but it leaves room for the imagination.

Adam Henein's the ship

I then passed through a screen-wrapped scaffolding-style façade, upon which imagery and video can be projected at night. Reception Hall is the next space. Security Guard indicated that I must report to Reception Desk which has two big art pictures of Emir and Sheikha Mozah at the opposite side. No fee to enjoy the whole art galleries and facilities. Receptionist asked few questions such as where do I know Mathaf, if I am tourist or resident. I inquired to the receptionist if I am allowed to take pictures and reminded that photography is limited to reception hall and outside museum.

Art pictures of Emir and Sheikha Mozah at the reception hall
Signages in the museum ("Negative" mode picture)

Inside Mathaf, the flexible space has an informal and contemporary aesthetic. I can easily recognize the ‘school’ parts of museum. There are 10 galleries arranged in two floors. At ground floor are form and abstraction, city, Doha, nature, and individualsm, whereas the first floor houses Horoufiyah, family, society, struggle, and history and myth galleries.

Also available at the ground floor are library (Maktaba), gift shop (Mahal), coffee shop (Maqha), activity center (Manara). The library was worth visited. It is spacious, well aranged. Soft, and comfortable sofa, Apple desktops, and vast array of art books are ingredient to this lovely library that its bookselves walls are made of stack of books. Interesting. The library is open to small grass field. Book can only be read in the library and not to be borrowed, unfortunately.

Striking colorful art structure at the reception hall




Visitor Information:

Opening Times

Sun, Mon, Tue, Thurs, Sat: 1100-1800

Friday: 1500-2100

Monday: Closed

The Mathaf café, library, education center and gift-shop are open during gallery hours

Maqha Relax with a coffee or lemonade and enjoy the breeze on our shaded terrace

Manara All kinds of active learning, from family fun to volunteering, intern programs and academic research

Maktaba Find the books and resources to help you pursue your own interest in art

Mahal Featuring creativegifts from the region alongside our own Mathaf merchandise


T: +974.4487.6662/+974.4402.8855

Coordinate: 25 18’39.02”N 51 25’08.15”E (drive Al Luqta Street  from Madinat Khalifa to the west, pass Slope Roundabout, pass one roundabout, turn left at the next roundabout, follow the road bend, turn right then right. Follow signages.

Museum complex from the road

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