"Watering the Desert | Contemporary Art from Qatar" is the first large-scale exhibition of Qatari and Qatar-based contemporary artists to be shown in China.
The exhibition is taking place at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai.
Curated by Qatar Museums' Issa Al Shirawi and Maryam Hassan Al Thani and organized in conjunction with Yuz Museum, it features the work of 37 multidisciplinary artists, designers, and filmmakers working in Qatar's artistic landscape.
The exhibition runs until March 3, 2024.
"Watering the Desert is the result of a six-year strategic partnership between Qatar Museums, Yuz Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art," said Her Highness Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums.
The exhibition emphasizes the significance of cross-cultural discussion and exchanges through art.
"We are delighted to be working with the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, a renowned Chinese institution and a long-standing partner of Qatar Museums, to exhibit and amplify individual voices and artistic practices from Qatar. This show presents our dynamic and globally connected creative ecosystem, which is nurtured by our local roots and traditions, via the diverse, multidisciplinary works of the presented artists."
Qatar has a long history of settlements stretching back 55,000 years, but the country's modernization, with fast changes to its social fabric and architectural environment, began only recently, in the early 1950s. The discovery of oil and the manufacturing of liquefied natural gas have fueled the dramatic changes that have changed the landscape with highways, public transportation systems, and magnificent structures. Qatar has grown its institutions, social services, and cultural venues during the last few decades, resulting in a robust and globally connected creative ecosystem.
The exhibition highlights the little peninsula's creative evolution, bridging the gap between traditional practices and modern transformative spirit.
Thirty-seven contemporary artists present an impressive array of multidisciplinary projects that focus on interconnected themes such as recollections of shared experiences, vanishing crafts, fusion between art and the natural environment, and commentary on complex social dynamics, reflecting a culture in transition.
By bringing together the artists' various experiences and points of view, this presentation captures a shared language that fosters a sense of home and belonging in a world that is continuously changing.
Yousef Ahmad Al Homaid, 68, is an influential contemporary artist in Qatar and the Gulf region. Characterized by extensive experimentation across mediums such as oil, acrylic and silkscreen on board, his work took a unique turn when he started using his own hand-made paper, created from local Qatari palm trees.
Ahmad also pioneered a new calligraphic style known as "Huroufiyyah," in which Arabic letters are individually modified to highlight the beauties of their abstract arrangements, Islamic culture, and Arab heritage.
In the series "Windows of the East," he utilizes palm tree paper as canvases to create textured abstract paintings topped with Arabic calligraphy, perfectly merging his environment with current Arabesque features.
"Traces of the Past" by artist, scholar, and collector Hassan bin Mohammed Al Thani is a minimalist depiction that explores collective memory and making practices, specifically the tradition of women crafting tents from sheep fur, symbolizing nomadic resilience, adaptability, and a deep bond with the environment.
During desert winters, tents are erected and dismantled, capturing the essence of Bedouin and nomadic life. In the midst of Qatar's rapid modernization, Al Thani's poetic prints capture his personal memories of the past and celebrate the juxtaposition of tradition with changes that have left only traces of where those tents once stood.
Sebastián Betancur-Montoya, a multidisciplinary artist with a background in architecture and urban design, is presenting "Vaellum," a salvaged sign that once directed buyers to "Furniture" in Doha's old markets but now reads "Future," placed within the drifting skeleton of a home, underscoring our era's destabilizing currents. Betancur-Montoya's work not only analyzes his own personal journey but also conveys a collective fear of the future in today's global setting.
Handwoven textiles by Maryam Al Homaid bridge the gap between lost Arabian Gulf crafts and contemporary digital media and graphics. Her "Doha Highways" series interweaves the names of contemporary infrastructure developments, such as the Sabah Al-Ahmad highway and the Lusail bridge, with digital representations in a typeface that embraces both form and meaning. Her work also emphasizes how the World Cup pushed Qatar to connect its many areas by building new routes from north to south, resulting in increased urbanization.
"Watering the Desert | Contemporary Art from Qatar" connects Qatar's traditional rituals with its current transformative energy. The exhibition features a remarkable collection of multidisciplinary projects centered on four interconnected themes: vivid recollections of shared experiences, commentary on complex social dynamics surrounding the concept of home, urban transformations, and the fusion of art and nature. This culturally rich presentation depicts Qatar's current artistic zeitgeist.
Date: Until March 3, 2024
Venue: Yuz Museum, Panlong Shanghai
Address: No.8, 123 Panding Road, Qingpu District
Admission: 80 yuan (US$10.9)