Qatar Museums’ collections are built with the idea and vision to create access to artistic production from different parts of the world and from a diversity of human cultures. Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to a specific geographical and cultural region. This exhibition, Looking at the World Around You , highlights major works from Mathaf’s collection — the largest of its kind in the world — as well as a selection of works from other Qatar Museums’ collections. These collections matter, today more so than ever.
Not only is the history of encounter and exchange between Spain and the Arab world long and complex, as Wael Shawky’s Cabaret Crusades suggests, but we believe that this exhibition will play an important role in expanding knowledge about our shared past, present and future, and advance our collective education. Each of the artworks in this exhibition, like the collections of Qatar Museums more broadly, poses questions about how art intercedes in, attests to, and gives form to history, in its multiplicity and contestations, whether Francisco de Goya’s view of two Arab men, painted almost two centuries ago, or the films, videos and sculptures of today’s most dynamic and engaged artists, like Mona Hatoum, Amal Kenawy and Manal AlDowayan. Mathaf is proud to support these artists as they interrogate important themes, such as historical narration, memory and identity, with nuance, beauty and strength. At its best, art can create new opportunities for dialogue and exchange, and prompt new understandings of human history. Touring exhibitions amplify these opportunities by taking key works from the history of artistic expression in the Arab world to new audiences. We invite you to look carefully at these artworks, for they are crucial windows onto the societies, past and present, of the artists who imagined and brought them to life.
We are thrilled to share so many of the artworks from our collections with audiences in Madrid, and to bring these artworks and the conversations they will undoubtedly spark to Spain. This collaboration between Fundación Banco Santander, Mathaf and Qatar Museums speaks to the privileged role that art can play in building bridges and opportunities whose significance extends well beyond the museum walls.