The exhibition of national art opened in the “Manege”
The works of Qatari artists and photographers make up almost half of the total number of exhibits: the rest is the works of foreign authors (expats and guest artists) and an impressive collection of historical photography. The tone of this exhibition, in general, oddly enough, sets the photo.
From the photographs of contemporary authors, however, very predictable, the exhibition begins. Here, for example, a large format of work on the current architectural and construction boom in Doha. All these modernist style buildings, in front of which no matter how you sit down with a camera, be sure to come out abstractly cold. But here and undress Qatar. For example, abandoned buildings, interiors left by residents, shot by Sheikha al-Qardan in the rays of the setting sun. Or the pictures of Khalid al-Hammadi, it seems, exploring how, in front of all this grandiose architecture, nature is retreating, the figure of a single man in national dress shrinks.
Next to the work of Qatari photographers are pictures of Russian authors, and a conceptual one. For example, the disgraced “instigator” of abandoned village houses Danil Tkachenko. His Mirage series is a large-sized photo collage with a string of women and men in Arab clothes, wandering through the dunes to the visible skyscrapers of Doha. The series of Zhenya Mironov “Fractals” is devoted to modern architectural ornaments, and his “Metaphysics of Qatar” and “Objects of Pure Reason” hint at the mysterious essence of deserted species, structures or objects in the desert. The appearance of Russian authors in Qatar, like photographers from other countries, is part of a long-term government program: foreigners are invited to share their views on the country.
In the section of historical photography at this exhibition there is something to surprise even the most sophisticated viewer: collectors from the National Museum of Qatar skillfully abandoned networks around the world in search of rarities associated with the Islamic cultural area. The first photographs of the monuments of Palmyra in 1864 by the French officer and photographer Louis Vinh; in the same place, on the background of the ruins, the portraits of Bedouins of the Englishman Robert Milnes or of the travelers of the Italian Tancred Dumas were collected in the albums. Russian Turkestan performed by Paul Nadar, the son of a famous photographer who visited Bukhara and Samarkand in 1890, – mausoleums, necropolises, portraits of families of local residents, khan falconers, children. Gallery of ethnographic portraits of Dmitry Yermakov, who in 1870 opened a photo studio in Tiflis, traveled extensively in the countries of Central Asia. Here and studio work, and portrait shots from the palaces of emirs with all their rich decoration. Anonymous painted portraits in the form of small-format postcards, which in the Ottoman Empire, the countries of the Arab East and Africa were not only collected for memory, but also exchanged as business cards. The architectural antiquities of Istanbul and the locals or tourists posing against their background, filmed by the Englishman James Robertson, who opened a studio there in 1854. The photographic history of the countries of Asia and the East is continued by the works of the great masters of the twentieth century — reportages by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Inge Morat, with photographs of the classic glossy photograph of Irvin Penn.
And the fact that the curators of the exhibition framed a brief history of their country with diverse and valuable material (in addition to vintage prints in the exposition there are many rare vintage photo albums existing in a few) cannot but cause respect, as, by the way, the aim of Qatar museums is to collect all the most valuable on the topic of interest.
Modern art from Qatar (a separate floor is given to it) covers sculpture, painting, video, installations, there is even a marvelous carpet of colored sand. It is easy to see how the local art scene learns the lessons of the international artistic language: it has its own abilities of abstract art, its Warhols and Hirst, feminists and environmentalists. And even a bold response to the latest political events, the boycott of Qatar announced by the neighboring countries in the “Turn of events” series Shock Mana al-Mana. These subtle drawings of ink and charcoal seem to express the confusion of the artist both in front of a given theme and in front of the events themselves.