Arab art in Madrid

Art from the Arab World gains global recognition in Madrid

Arab art in Madrid

For the past few months, 160 works of art by 34 different artists have been on show at the Santander Art Gallery in Madrid. It’s the world’s largest collection of contemporary Arab art, and it came from right here in Doha.

It’s a celebration of the incredible collection of art we have here in the city, and a sign that art from the Arab World is slowly gaining momentum on an international scale. The exhibition, titled Looking at the World Around You: Contemporary Works from Qatar Museums portrays the Arab World through the eyes of the artists, most of whom are natives of countries like Qatar, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Morocco. Hassan Sharif, for example, is one of them and his work, which examines the rapidly expanding cities of the Middle East and the effects they have on the rest of the world, is also currently on show at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Education City until September 4.

But the exhibition looks at the region from a number of perspectives, and the work of renowned international talents such as the famous surrealist René Magritte and Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang (who curated What about the art? Contemporary Art from China, which is showing at Al Riwaq gallery until July 16) is on display, too.

The majority of work on show comes from Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, which was set up to collect and exhibit art work from artists in the region. The gallery has collected more than 9,000 works of art over 30 years and much of what’s on show in Spain will be available again for public viewing in Qatar after Looking at the World Around You ends, this month.

It’s an exhibition exploring everything from Arab world history to issues of memory and identity. It looks at the ways in which past events from the often-turbulent history of the region continue to influence and dictate the present.

From Magritte’s vision of the Orient in Shéhérazade to the self-portrait painted by Inji Efflatoun in prison, the exhibition goes beyond looking at the Arab World as an isolated, remote entity and looks at its connection with both its geographical neighbours and the rest of the world. It’s a call to consider how events in the region have a significant impact in every corner of the globe.

As Abdellah Karroum, curator of the show and director of Mathaf explains, the show is “an invitation to look again and see anew; an invitation, in other words, to rethink the alignment of histories and how to make sense of the world today.”

The exhibition from Qatar Museums is on show until June 19 at Santander Art Gallery in Financial City, Boadilla del Monte, Madrid (+34 91 781 51 58).
For more information about Qatar Museums Art Collections, visit and (4452 5555).

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