In preparation for tonight’s Phillips after 5, DC-based artist Dan Steinhilber visited the museum yesterday to test out his interactive Interface artwork in the galleries. Steinhilber’s work, which was recently featured at G Fine Art, invites visitors to enter into the piece and create a unique experience for themselves and other participants. Comprising five inflatable, bag-like sculptures (made from plastic stretch wrap, wood, and computer fans), Interface is a riff on our addiction to the Internet, instant yet remote communication, and virtual reality. The wearable aspect of these works—visitors insert their “talking-heads” inside the sculptures while their hands remain outside—offers an estranged and disembodied experience.
The recent excitement and preparations for the Annual Gala and Contemporaries Bash here at the the Phillips inspired me to look into the arts scene in Qatar. Heading into a night of cultural exchange and artistic appreciation, I wanted to learn more about the Qatari institutions that celebrate and preserve their cultural heritage. Doha, it turns out, is a city rich with museums and galleries that house centuries of history and beauty. Here are some major places you should know:
Established in 2005, the Qatar Museums Authority is the organization that oversees museums and heritage sites in Qatar. Their objective is to develop, promote, and sustain the cultural sector to the highest standards.
The Museum of Islamic Art houses one of the world’s largest collections of Islamic art consisting of manuscripts, textiles, ceramics, jewelry, metalwork, woodwork, and glassware that spans over 1,400 years and three continents. The building itself is also a beautiful work of art, designed by award-winning Chinese architect I.M. Pei and influenced by ancient Islamic architecture.
Established in 2010, Mathaf has quickly become a central part of the Doha art community. French architect Jean-Franҫois Bodin transformed a former school building into an exhibition space. Since its opening, the museum has showcased the achievements of Arab artists from the 1840s to today in painting, sculpture, and photography.
The National Museum of Qatar, opening this year, creates a dialogue between the past and present. Through exhibiting historic objects alongside contemporary items, the museum hopes to initiate conversations about the impact of rapid change in a society. The building, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, rests on an island and was inspired by the delicate petals of desert roses.
If you’re looking for experimental and provocative art sure to spark a conversation, ALRIWAQ is the place to visit. As an exhibition space, they do not have a permanent collection. Instead, they hold several temporary shows each year that showcase regional and international works. Damien Hirst’s infamous diamond skull, along with several of his formaldehyde works, were part of an exhibition at ALRIWAQ in 2013.
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Of her installation at the Phillips, Acts of Silence, and how it speaks to the work by Morris Graves on view in the same galleries, Helen Frederick says: “Much of this came from traveling to California, where for the first time I saw the redwoods; and just the evolution of the plant life and the bird life, and those great massive trees and the shadows cast by the trees . . . the muffled sounds from the ocean . . . [these] allow me to understand why Morris Graves found this environment where he wanted to be for the last years of his life.”