For those seeking to experience Middle Eastern culture, Qatar offers some of the richest, most unique cultural experiences in the region. This includes the thriving arts scene, which is so ingrained in the essence of the country that it can be found almost anywhere, from the plentiful museums and galleries to the outstanding public art.
This year, Qatar’s museums and galleries are set to welcome a number of exciting exhibitions from some of the world’s most distinguished artists and curators, including Jeff Koons, American artist famed for his stainless-steel balloon animal sculptures, and Virgil Abloh, designer and artistic director of Louis Vuitton.
Qatar National Tourism Council has rounded up the best hidden – and not so hidden – gems for culture vultures to see in 2021 to mark Qatar Museums’ announcement of its forthcoming year of show-stopping events and exhibitions.
Top Cultural Gems in Qatar and exhibitions not to be missed:
QATAR’S CULTURAL GEMS – National Museum of Qatar
Perhaps the pinnacle of Qatar’s thriving art scene is the National Museum of Qatar. The beautiful building is inspired by the petals of desert roses, making it a work of art in its own right. This year, the museum will house a special exhibition for the museum’s mascot, the elusive dugong. Herds of around 600 ‘sea cows’ have been spotted in the waters of Qatar in recent years and the species has been visiting the peninsula for 7,500 years. They are currently the focus of a research and protection programme, spearheaded by ExxonMobil Research Qatar.
Seagrass Tales, Dugong Trails Opening 30 March – 30 August 2021. National Museum of Qatar
QATAR’S CULTURAL GEMS – Museum of Islamic Art (MIA)
Located just off the promenade of the Doha Corniche, the Museum of Islamic Art shows Islamic art from across three continents. The extensive collection of artefacts includes metalwork, ceramics, jewellery, woodwork, textiles, and glass dating back to the 7th century. This year, the exhibition A Falcon’s Eye: Tribute to Sheikh Saoud Al Thani – opens to visitors until 10 April 2021, paying tribute to Sheikh Saoud’s renowned collector’s eye.
A Falcon’s Eye: Tribute to Sheikh Saoud Al Thani Open until 10 April 2021 Museum of Islamic Art
QATAR’S CULTURAL GEMS – QM GALLERY ALRIWAQ
Located next to the Museum of Islamic Art, QM Gallery ALRIWAQ is a contemporary exhibition space that has previously hosted world-renowned artists such as Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst.
The Fire Station is a thriving arts centre located in a disused fire station. The venue supports and showcases the work of local artists alongside internationally known names, including Picasso and Giacometti. In October 2021, the gallery will welcome a thoughtful exhibition by Virgil Abloh, CEO of the contemporary fashion house, Off-White. The exhibit will guide visitors through Abloh’s distinctive impacts on the worlds of architecture, fashion, design, music, and art.
Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech. October 2021 to February 2022. Fire Station
QATAR’S CULTURAL GEMS – East-West/West-East monoliths
In 2020, mysterious monoliths appeared around the world, sparking a worldwide frenzy to crack the enigma of where they came from. For those who missed out on seeing the mysterious plinths before they were removed, Qatar is home to four permanent monoliths, erected in a similarly secretive fashion until unveiled to be a project by Richard Serra. Comprising of four steel plates, each of which is over 14m in height, the installation spans over 1km and are nestled between limestone rock formations in the desert outside Zekreet.
QATAR’S CULTURAL GEMS – Lamp Bear
Tourists passing through Doha while on a stopover can experience the unique mix of arts and culture without ever leaving the airport; located on the Departure level of the Hamad International Airport is a 23-foot plush teddy bear sitting under a lamp. The sculpture, created by Urs Fischer, is designed to be both humorous and comforting, reminding travellers of childhood or precious objects from home.