Qatari art

The modern Qatari art movement emerged in the mid-20th century, as a result of the new-found wealth acquired from oil exports and subsequent modernization of Qatari society. Because of Islam's non-inclusive stance of depictions of sentient beings in visual arts, paintings historically played an insignificant role in the country's culture.[1] Other visual art forms such as calligraphy, architecture and textiles were more highly regarded in the Bedouin tradition.[1]

Development of modern art

Museum of Islamic Art, inaugurated in 2008

The art scene in Qatar witnessed substantial development in the mid- and late 1950s. Initially, arts were overseen by the Ministry of Education, with art exhibitions being hosted in its facilities.[2] In 1972, the government started providing increased funding to aid the development of arts within the country. The father of modern artists in Qatar is Jassim Zaini (1943–2012), whose work explored diversity in techniques and documented the changing society from traditional local life to a global style. The Qatari Fine Arts Society was established in 1980 with the objective of promoting the works of Qatari artists.[2] In 1998, the National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage was established.[3]

Qatar Museums was established in the early 2000s to build and connect all museums and collections in Qatar. Two major museums lead the institution: the Museum of Islamic Art opened in 2008, and the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, opened in Education City by Qatar Foundation in 2010.

Prehistoric art

Jebel Jassassiyeh rock carvings
Rock carvings in Jebel Jassassiyeh depicting a boat

Ancient rock carvings have been discovered in eight separate locations in Qatar: Jebel Jassassiyeh, Jabel Fuwayrit, Freiha, Al Ghariyah, Al Jumail, Simaisma, Al Wakrah and Al Kassar. Most of these sites were discovered by Danish archaeological teams in the 1950s and 1960s.[4] The carvings are classified in a number of categories, including human and animal representation, boat representation, cup-marks, large cavities, geometric designs, tribal marks, and hand- and footprints.[5]

A large number of rock carvings were discovered in Jebel Jassassiyeh, in northeast Qatar, in 1961. Variations in motifs and technique indicate that the carvings were made through various historical periods.[6] Cup-marks are the most common forms of art among the nearly 900 carvings. Other carvings include ships, animals, foot-prints and tribal marks (known as wasum).[4][7] Different animals are depicted, such as ostriches, turtles and fish. A large number of the carvings illustrate boats, and this is the only site in Qatar where boat depictions have been recorded. The boats are of different sizes and types, and some contain oars while others do not.[8]

Geometrical designs were recorded at Freiha in four places. They measure 11 to 15 cm in width and 11 to 12 cm in height. Danish archaeologist Peter Glob believed that they were carved by an ancient fertility cult.[9][10] This theory was disputed by Muhammad Abdul Nayeem, who believes that they are simply abstract symbols or tribal marks.[9]


Weaving and dyeing

Fabric displays in Souq Waqif
Satin fabrics on display in Souq Waqif

Weaving and dyeing played a substantial role in Bedouin culture. The process of spinning sheep's and camel's wool to produce cloth was laborious. The wool was first disentangled and tied to a bobbin, which would serve as a core and keep the fibers rigid. This was followed by spinning the wool by hand on a spindle known as a noul.[11] They were then placed on a vertical loom constructed from wood whereupon women would use a stick to beat the weft into place.[12]

The resulting cloths were used in rugs, carpets and tents. Tents were usually made up of naturally colored cloth, whereas rugs and carpets used dyed cloth, mainly red and yellow.[12] The dyes were made from desert herbs, with simple geometrical designs being employed. The art lost popularity in the 19th century as dyes and cloth were increasingly imported from other regions in Asia.[12]


Embroidered dresses in Souq Waqif
Embroidered dresses on display in Souq Waqif

A simple form of embroidery practiced by Qatari women was known as kurar. It involved four women, each carrying four threads, who braided the threads on articles of clothing, mainly thawbs or abayas. The braids, varying in color, were sewn vertically. It was similar to heavy chain stitch embroidery.[12] Gold threads, known as zari, were commonly used. They were usually imported from India.[13]

Another type of embroidery involved the designing of caps called gohfiahs. They were made from cotton and were pierced with thorns from palm-trees to allow the women to sew between the holes. This form of embroidery declined in popularity after the country began importing the caps.[13]

Khiyat al madrasa, translated as 'school embroidery', involved the stitching of furnishings by satin stitching. Prior to the stitching process, a shape was drawn onto the fabric by a skilled artist. The most common designs were birds and flowers.[1]



The numerous forts found throughout the Qatari peninsula are a testament to the country's ancient construction methods.[14] Most forts were constructed using mainly limestone, with other constituents such as mud and clay brick also being used. A type of mixture consisting of mud and clay brick known locally as lubnah was sometimes used in the construction of forts, such as in Ar Rakiyat Fort.[15]

Traditional architecture

Most traditional houses in the capital Doha were tightly packed and arranged around a central courtyard. A number of rooms were situated in the courtyard, most often including a majilis, bathroom and store room. The houses were made from limestone quarried from local sources. Walls surrounding the compounds were made up of compressed mud, gravel and small stones. As they were heavily susceptible to natural erosion, they were protected by gypsum plaster. Mangrove poles wrapped in jute rope provided structural support for the windows and doors.[16]

Traditional Qatari houses in Al Wakrah
Traditional Qatari houses in Al Wakrah Heritage Village

Roofs were typically flat and were supported by mangrove poles. The poles were covered with a layer of split bamboo and a palm mat locally called manghrour. The mangrove poles often extended past the exterior walls for decorative purposes. Doors were made of metal or wood. Colored glass employing geometrical designs was sometimes used in windows.[16]

Several methods were used in traditional architecture to alleviate the harsh climate of the country. Windows were seldom used in order to reduce heat conduction.[16] The badgheer construction method allowed air to be channeled into houses for ventilation purposes. This was accomplished by several methods, including horizontal air gaps in rooms and parapets, and vertical openings in wind towers called hawaya which drew air into the courtyards. Wind towers, however, were not as common in Doha as they were in other parts of the country.[17]

Shortly after Qatar gained independence, many of the districts of old Doha, including Al Najada, Al Asmakh and Old Al Hitmi, faced gradual decline, and as a result much of their historical architecture has been demolished.[18] A number of schemes have been taken to preserve the city's cultural and architectural heritage, such as the Qatar Museums Authority's 'Al Turath al Hai' ('living heritage') initiative.[19]

Modern architecture

Qatar in the past two decades has pinpointed its place in the world map with prominent global landmarks including Education City which showcases architecture from numerous architects including Rem Koolhaas who designed the Qatar National Library during 2018 and the Qatar Foundation headquarters back in 2014.[20]

Among Qatar's notable architects is Japanese architect Arata Isozaki who contributed towards designing countless buildings in Education City, including the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC), the Liberal Arts and Science Building (LAS) and the Qatar Foundation Ceremonial Court.[20]

Qatar's art initiatives have expanded tremendously in recent years with the opening of massive great projects including the Doha Fire Station which exhibits art at the heart of the city.[21]

Arts and museums have played a pivotal role in improving Qatar's tourism and inviting people to understand Qatar's history and heritage with the openings of the National Museum of Qatar, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Msheireb Museums and the Museum of Islamic Arts.[21]

Her Excellency Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani has played a significant role in bringing art to Qatar, particularly with the latest art installations at the Hamad International Airport (HIA) showcasing pieces of work by numerous global artists in collaboration with Qatar Museums Authority.[22]

Under the guidance of the CEO of Qatar Foundation, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Education City has become a home for modernistic buildings originating from worldwide architects contributing to the building of schools, universities, offices, and accommodations for the community.[20]

Examples of modern architecture

In Education City:

Qatar foundation mosque

Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies designed by Mangera Yvars Architects

Qf hq

Qatar Foundation Headquarters designed by Rem Koolhaas

Modern visual arts

Art gallery in Souq Waqif
Art gallery in Souq Waqif

Historically, paintings were not common in Qatari society. Instead, other art forms such as calligraphy and architecture were preferred.[1] After the oil boom in the mid-20th century, paintings gained popularity. Common themes during this period were related to Islamic and Arabic heritage.[23] Art exhibitions were held under the auspices of the Ministry of Education until 1972.[2] The Ministry of Education integrated art education into the school system and allocated facilities for art workshops.[24]

As an initiative to develop the local artist base, the ministry began offering scholarships to study art abroad. Jassim Zaini became the first Qatari art student to study abroad on a scholarship in 1962 after he enrolled in the University of Baghdad. Several more artists were sent abroad on art scholarships during the 1960s and 1970s, including Wafika Sultan, Hassan Al Mulla and Yousef Ahmad. The latter became the first artist to receive an M.A. in 1981. Yousef Ahmad was the first artist to hold a solo exhibition in 1977. Under its director Nasser Al-Othman, the Culture and Arts Department inaugurated the country's first art gallery in 1977–78.[24]

Yousef Ahmad, Hassan Al Mulla and Muhammad Ali established the country's first art group in 1977, "The Three Friends Group".[24] In 1980, the Qatari Fine Arts Society was established with the objective of promoting the works of Qatari artists.[2] That year, an art workshop was opened for women with the aim of providing them with an opportunity to hone their artistic skills.[25] The Qatari Fine Arts Society held their first exhibition in 1981.[2] In December 1982, the country's first art exhibition for females was held.[24]

Sheikh Hassan
Hassan bin Mohammed Al Thani has featured prominently in Qatar's art scene since 1986

Five main art movements emerged in the country by the late 20th century: surrealism, realism, expressionism, abstract art, and calligraphy.[24]

A member of the ruling family, Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani, has been an instrumental figure in developing Qatar's modern art industry since the 1980s. Among his art-related activities was establishing his own museum which doubled as a residency space for Doha-based artists in 1994, and establishing the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in 2010 to which he donated his entire art collection, which he had begun assembling in 1986.[26]

When a quartet comprising Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed all ties with and imposed a blockade of Qatar on 5 June 2017, Qatari artist Ahmed Al-Maadheed created an illustration known as "Tamim Almajd", which translates to "Tamim the Glorious". A simple black and white sketch of Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, beneath of which is the text "Tamim Almajd" in the style of Arabic calligraphy, the illustration has become symbolic of Qatari nationalism. The image is now displayed prominently on buildings, in media and in art in Qatar.[27]

Notable artists

  • Jassim Zaini, probably the most important Qatari artist, founding the modern movement
  • Faraj Daham, a Qatari artist and founding member of the Qatari Fine Arts Society,[28] his work addresses social and political topics in painting and installation, often using recycled material and raw material
  • Yousef Ahmad, a Qatari painter, art collector and author[29]
  • Wafika Sultan Al-Essa, one of the first professional Qatari female artists[30]
  • Salman Al-Malik, a Qatari artist[31]
  • Hassan Al Mulla, a Qatari surrealist painter[32]

See also

Art galleries in Qatar


  1. ^ a b c d A. Abu Saud (1984), p. 140
  2. ^ a b c d e A. Abu Saud (1984), p. 142
  3. ^ "Culture & Arts". Consulate General of the State of Qatar. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b Abdul Nayeem (1998), p. 220.
  5. ^ Abdul Nayeem (1998), p. 231.
  6. ^ Abdul Nayeem (1998), p. 221.
  7. ^ Bibby, Geoffrey (1965). "Arabian Gulf archaeology". Kuml: 104.
  8. ^ Abdul Nayeem (1998), p. 233.
  9. ^ a b Abdul Nayeem (1998), p. 256.
  10. ^ Glob, Peter (1957). "Prehistoric discoveries in Qatar". Kuml: 176.
  11. ^ A. Abu Saud (1984), p. 135
  12. ^ a b c d A. Abu Saud (1984), p. 136
  13. ^ a b A. Abu Saud (1984), p. 137
  14. ^ "Forts in Qatar". Qatar Museums. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  15. ^ The Syriac Writers of Qatar in the Seventh Century (2014), p. 32
  16. ^ a b c "Traditional domestic architecture of Qatar". Origins of Doha. 15 February 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  17. ^ "Gulf architecture". Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  18. ^ Djamel Bouassa. "Al Asmakh historic district in Doha, Qatar: from an urban slum to living heritage". Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  19. ^ "The Winners of the Old Doha Prize Competition Announced". Marhaba. 26 November 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  20. ^ a b c Education city : building foundations for the future. Jodidio, Philip. Doha: Qatar Foundation, Capital Projects Directorate. 2014. ISBN 9788416142361. OCLC 899565075.CS1 maint: others (link)
  21. ^ a b "Visit Qatar | Discover a Unique Destination". Retrieved 2019-04-15.
  22. ^ Falconer, Morgan (2002-04-30). Butt, Hamad. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.
  23. ^ A. Abu Saud (1984), p. 141
  24. ^ a b c d e "رحلة الفن التشكيلي بدولة قطر أ.د. ليلي حسن علام". Aljasra Culture Magazine. 16 June 2010. Retrieved 30 July 2015.
  25. ^ A. Abu Saud (1984), p. 144
  26. ^ John Zarobell (2017). Art and the Global Economy. University of California Press. p. 165.
  27. ^ "'Tamim the Glorious' enthrals Qatar". The Hindu. AFP. 3 August 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  28. ^ "Faraj Daham". Qatar Museums Authority. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  29. ^ Touati, Samia. "Biography of Yousef Ahmad". Mathaf Encyclopedia of Modern Art and the Arab World. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  30. ^ "Wafika Sultan Saif Al-Essa". Qatar Museums Authority. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  31. ^ Nicolai Hartvig (6 January 2012). "Qatar Looks to Balance Its Arts Scene". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
  32. ^ Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh. The Academy. 2003. Al-Mulla is the best known Qatari artist who took Surrealism as a method of expression.


  • Abdul Nayeem, Muhammad (1998). Qatar Prehistory and Protohistory from the Most Ancient Times (Ca. 1,000,000 to End of B.C. Era). Hyderabad Publishers. ISBN 9788185492049.
  • Abu Saud, Abeer (1984). Qatari Women: Past and Present. Longman Group United Kingdom. ISBN 978-0582783720.
  • Kozah, Mario; Abu-Husayn, Abdulrahim; Al-Murikhi, Saif Shaheen; Al-Thani, Haya (2014). The Syriac Writers of Qatar in the Seventh Century (print ed.). Gorgias Press LLC. ISBN 978-1463203559.
Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani

Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (born 1983) is the sister of Qatar's ruling Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and daughter of the country's Father Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and former First Lady Moza bint Nasser. Al-Mayassa was declared the most influential person in art on ArtReview's Power 100, and prominently appears on the Time 100, and Forbes' The World's 100 Most Powerful Women. Al-Mayassa serves as Chairperson of Qatar Museums, and it was reported by Bloomberg that her annual acquisition budget on behalf of the organization is estimated at $1 billion.Al Mayassa is believed to have been the purchaser of Paul Gauguin's When Will You Marry? in 2015 for $300 million, a record price for a painting, Cezanne's The Card Players in 2012 for $250 million, as well as Mark Rothko's White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) in 2007 for $70 million, a Damien Hirst pill cabinet for $20 million and works by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Francis Bacon. She has staged major exhibitions in Qatar with Takashi Murakami, Richard Serra and Damien Hirst.

Collecting practices of the Al-Thani Family

The ruling family of Qatar, the House of Thani, is deeply involved in the field of art. For more than twenty years, some of its members have been accumulating numerous and precious pieces of artwork.

The project Qatar National Vision 2030 promotes the creation of new schools, new universities and new museums. The Cultural development, characterized by new museums and exhibitions, is therefore closely linked to the political motive of building a “knowledge-based economy” in Qatar by 2030.The journalist Barbara Pollack underlines the central role of the Al-Thani family while comparing Qatar's and Abu Dhabi’s cultural policies: "While Abu Dhabi is making a name for itself by building dramatic local satellites of the Louvres, the Guggenheim and the British Museum, Qatar's scheme of cultural nation building is much more homegrown, establishing its own museums rooted in the collections of its own royal family."

Cosmoscow International Contemporary Art Fair

Cosmoscow International Contemporary Art Fair, aimed at bringing together both Russian and international collectors, galleries and artists, was launched by Russian art historian, patron of young artists and collector Margarita Pushkina in 2010. Since then it continues fostering local art market by supporting emerging artists and gallerists. With a number of curated projects, newly established Cosmoscow Foundation programme, educational and parallel events, Cosmoscow acts as the leading platform for building the country’s contemporary art market.

The second edition of Cosmoscow took place in 2014. The fair took place at the Moscow Manege, lasting for 4 days (September 18–21), hosted 26 galleries and welcomed 10,500 visitors.Cosmoscow third edition took place in 2015 (September 10–13) at the Gostiny Dvor. It was accompanied by a number of prolonged initiatives that drew much public attention, including the Off white charity auction. In 2015 Cosmoscow gained support from its new strategic partner – Credit Suisse. This time Cosmoscow hosted 34 galleries and welcomed 14,000 guests.The latest 5-th anniversary edition of Cosmoscow took place in the historic market building of Gostiny Dvor from 7 to 10 September 2017. It saw the record number of 54 participants, growing number of 19,200 visitors and rewarding sales results across Russian and international exhibitors. Remaining the only international contemporary art fair in Russia and CIS, Cosmoscow continues fostering local art market by supporting young and emerging artists and gallerists. Year 2017 saw the launch of Cosmoscow Foundation for Contemporary Art, an institution combining fair's non-commercial initiatives, undertaken in recent years. As part of the partnership between Cosmoscow and the State Tretyakov Gallery named Cosmoscow's Museum Partner for 2017, a special acquisition of three works by Russian artist Andrey Kuzkin to the museum's permanent collection with participation of the Foundation was announced.The 6th Cosmoscow fait took place on September 7–9, 2018, at Moscow's Gostiny Dvor. Its three-day public programme saw a growing number of 19 000 visitors and the record number of 66 participants from Russia, Europe, America, and Middle East representing 250 contemporary artists from around the world. Cosmoscow 2018 programming featured 7 curated sections. It also included “What we are made of” exhibition of contemporary Qatari art held within the Year of Culture Qatar-Russia 2018. The exposition brought together a curated selection of Qatari artists from different generations, showcasing the remarkable historical development of the artistic avant-garde in Qatar. The exhibition was curated by Reem Fadda, one of the leading experts in Middle Eastern art. At the fair opening, Credit Suisse and Cosmoscow announced the laureate of their joint award for young artistic talent in Russia. Asya Marakulina from Saint Petersburg was selected the winner by the international jury. As part of partnership with the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, 2018 Museum of the Year, Cosmoscow announced the donation of 5 works by 2018 Artist of the Year Taus Makhacheva for the new collection of media art formed as a part of the Pushkin Museum XXI programme.

Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber bin Mohammed bin Thani Al Thani (born 11 January 1958) (Arabic: حمد بن جاسم بن جبر آل ثاني) is a Qatari politician. He was the Prime Minister of Qatar from 3 April 2007 to 26 June 2013, and foreign minister from 11 January 1992 to 26 June 2013.

Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani

Sheikh Hassan bin Mohamed bin Ali Al Thani (born in 1960 in Doha)A prominent member of the Qatari royal family and the grandson of the former King of Qatar is a Qatari artist, collector, researcher, and educator in the field of modern art from the Arab world, India, and Asia. His multi-billion dollar art collection is one of the most valuable and extensive in the Middle East. He is Vice Chairperson of Qatar Museums Authority, Advisor for Cultural Affairs at Qatar Foundation and founder of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.

Ibrahim bin Yousuf Al-Fakhro

Eng. Ibrahim Bin Yousuf Al Hasan Al Fakhro is a Qatari writer, businessman and art collector. He authored a book entitled “Arabic Calligraphy and Quran, A shared journey” in 2015. He also held several exhibitions regarding Arabic calligraphy, Islamic Art, and the life of Muhammad. Al Fakhro holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Qatar University, as well as a diploma in management.He started working at Kahramaa (Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation) and became the distribution manager of the company. He later joined Qatar Tourism Authority, then became Director of Qatar's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and finally became the CEO of Barwa Al-Baraha. He is currently vice-chairman of the Middle East Facility Management Association.

List of Qatar-related topics

This is a list of topics related to Qatar. Those interested in the subject can monitor changes to the pages by clicking on Related changes in the sidebar.

Qatari literature

Qatari literature traces its origins back to the 19th century. Originally, written poetry was the most common form of expression, but poetry later fell out of favor after Qatar began reaping the profits from oil exports in the mid-20th century and many Qataris abandoned their Bedouin traditions in favor of more urban lifestyles.Due to the increasing number of Qataris who began receiving formal education during the 1950s and other significant societal changes, the following years saw the introduction of short stories, and later, novels. Poetry, particularly the predominant nabati form, retained some importance but would soon be overshadowed by other literary types. Unlike most other forms of art in Qatari society, females have been involved in the modern literature movement on a similar magnititude to males.

Saud bin Muhammed Al Thani

Saud bin Muhammad bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Jassim bin Muhammed Al Thani (28 February 1966 – 9 November 2014) was a Qatari prince who served as minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

By the turn of the 21st century, Shaikh Sa’ud had established an international reputation as an avid art collector, both for his own collection as well as those of several state-owned museums he oversaw in Qatar.

Wafika Sultan Al-Essa

Wafika Sultan Al-Essa (Arabic: وفيقة سلطان العيسى‎; born 1952 in Bahrain) is a Qatari artist specializing in painting and plastic arts. She has occupied posts in Qatar TV's production department. She is one of the first females in the country to study and practice art professionally. She has been described as a pioneer of modern art in Qatar.

Yousef Ahmad

Yousef Ahmad (Arabic: يوسف أحمد‎; born 1955 in Doha, Qatar) is a Qatari artist, art adviser, collector, writer and educator in the field of art. He is a leading figure of Qatar's cultural development and regularly represent his country at international biennials and events. His art work has been displayed internationally.

Sovereign states

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.