Moroccan-born curator Abdellah Karroum will develop Doha museum’s international programmes when he takes over in June.
On 25 May 2013 the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, appointed Abdellah Karroum as its new director. Moroccan-born Karroum brings international experience to the museum in the midst of Doha’s rapidly expanding art infrastructure.
An Arab contemporary art professional for more than 20 years, Karroum is a curator, publisher and independent artistic director based in Paris and Rabat. The founder of L’appartement 22, Morocco’s first experimental art space, he has also worked on a range of international art events, including the DAK’ART Biennale of African Contemporary Art (2006), Venice Biennale (2007), Gwangju Biennale (2008) and the Arts in Marrakech International Biennale (2009). In 2012 Karroum was Associate Curator for La Triennale at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, and Artistic Director of the Biennale Regard Benin 2012. He is also Associate Curator at La Kunsthalle de Mulhouse, France, for the year 2013.
Commenting on the museum’s new director on Art Daily, Qatar Museums Authority Executive Director and Acting CEO Edward Dolman drew attention to Karroum’s work worldwide and his global resume. Outlining his future plans for Mathaf in the same press statement, Karroum said he planned to bring his internationalism to bear on his new role.
My plan for Mathaf includes international standards for conservation and exhibitions, scholarly research and publications, and the creation of a new strategic department led by [interim director] Michelle Dezember, continuing the museum’s international programme and special projects.
Qatar’s cultural evolution
Abdellah Karroum takes on the Mathaf directorship at a time of increasing fiscal and political support for art infrastructure in Qatar. In 2011 the country was revealed as the world’s biggest spender on contemporary art by The Art Newspaper, buying up works by blue-chip artists like Mark Rothko and Damien Hirst, according to Business Insider. The Qatar Museums Authority has funded exhibitions outside its own borders, such as a Takashi Murakami’s exhibition in Versailles in 2010 and Damien Hirst’s 2012 retrospective at the Tate Modern, expanding its heft on the global art stage.
At the same time, the country has improved commercial and public art infrastructure internally: renovations such as those underway at the National Museum of Qatar, slated to re-open in 2014, the headhunting of Edward Dolman from Christie’s International, and the museums planned under the QMA’s “Qatar National Vision 2030” point to a concerted effort to grow Qatari art infrastructure, notes The Economist. Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, speaking to The Guardian in 2012, likened the country’s recent culture push to a cultural evolution akin to that of postwar Los Angeles, except more rapid.
In Doha, a visionary museum experience has been built up in the last three years. In Los Angeles it took 20.
Arab art uprising
Support for modern and contemporary art has increased steadily across the Gulf region in recent years. Doha’s neighbour the United Arab Emirates has designated a cultural district, Saadiyat Island, where the newly constructed Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Museum will be located when they open in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Art Dubai (the region’s biggest art fair) and the Sharjah Biennial are also held in the Emirates.
In May 2013, Iranian-born art collector Ramin Salsali announced ambitious plans to launch the Dubai Museum of Contemporary Art (DMOCA) in Abu Dhabi, which will be the first publicly-funded Emirati museum when it opens in 2014.
- Dubai Museum of Contemporary Art: The people’s museum? – May 2013 – the UAE gets its first museum “by the people, for the people”
- Walid Raad explores exploding Middle East art scene infrastructure in Louvre exhibition – March 2013 – the Louvre celebrates its Islamic Wing with a look at the shifting Middle East art landscape
- Contemporary art in Kuwait 2012: Top 10 exhibitions, projects – Art Kuwait – January 2013 – Art Kuwait rounds up the best shows of the previous 12 months
- Mathaf’s first eastward looking show – “Cai Guo-Qiang: Saraab” in recap – May 2012 – first Chinese show for the Arab museum, but was it a success?
- Most groundbreaking contemporary art from East? Three top art experts say no – December 2010 – counter-opinion on this big debate from art professionals Sarah Kent, Kenny Schachter and Richard Wentworth
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