An exhibition that opened in Madrid today (9 February) of works by contemporary artists from across North Africa and the Middle East includes Arab-inspired paintings by Goya and Magritte alongside works by Mona Hatoum, Shirin Neshat, Wael Shawky and Manal Al Dowayan among others. A large-scale work by the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who is organising his own show in Qatar, is one of the more than 160 works by 34 artists in the exhibition. They all come from the collection of Qatar Museums, which has collaborated with the Fundación Banco Santander to bring the exhibition Looking at the World Around You (until 19 June) to the Spanish capital.
The Arab art show is the foundation’s first collaboration with Qatar Museums and the first major loan exhibition in Europe of works from Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Contemporary Art in Doha. Organised by the curator Abdellah Karroum, he has included Goya’s watercolour Two Orientals (around 1825) and Magritte’s gouache Sherezade (1947), which are in the collection of Qatar’s Orientalist Museum. Cai Guo-Qiang’s 18-metre-long work Ninety-Nine Horses, which combines gold-leaf sculpture and gunpowder on paper, is displayed for the first time since it was commissioned in 2011 by Qatar Museums.
The first work that visitors encounter, Manal Al Dowayan’s installation Suspended Together (2011) refers to Saudi Arabian women’s limited civil rights. They cannot travel abroad without permission from a male guardian. The bodies of the 124 fibre-glass doves are embedded with official travel documents obtained by female Saudi intellectuals, artists and scientists.
Bolton & Quinn
Manal Al Dowayan's Suspended Together (2012). Image: courtesy of Fundación Banco Santander
The Santander Art Gallery presents highlights of the Santander Collection in a 3,000 sq. m space in the northern outskirts of Madrid and has previously hosted a series of exhibitions drawing on international private collections.