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World's largest collection of modern and contemporary Arab art visits Spain
Looking at the World Around You Installation view. Courtesy of the foundation.

MADRID.- Looking at the World Around You: Contemporary Works from Qatar Museums is the title of the exhibition that will be held from 9 February to 19 June 2016 at the Santander Art Gallery in Financial City (Boadilla del Monte, Madrid), offered by Fundación Banco Santander in partnership with Qatar Museums and under the leadership of its Chairperson, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. The show's opening on 8 February will be attended by Mansoor bin Ebrahim Al Mahmoud, CEO of Qatar Museums; Abdellah Karroum, curator of the exhibition and director of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha; and Rodrigo Echenique, chairman of Santander Spain.

Fundación Banco Santander remains committed to its exhibition policy, adopted seven years ago now, of bringing major international collections of contemporary art to the Santander Art Gallery. On this occasion, visitors to the gallery will have the opportunity to contemplate, for the first time outside Qatar, an ample selection of works from the Qatar Museums collections.

The majority of the works in Looking at the World Around You: Contemporary Works from Qatar Museums were loaned by Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, although there are also a number of pieces from other Qatar Museums collections. This selection, more than 160 works in total, represents the history of contemporary Arab art as seen through the eyes of 34 artists, most of whom are natives of Arab nations like Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait and, of course, Qatar. However, the exhibition also includes works by foreign-born creators whose art is related to the Arab world, such as Yan Pen Ming and Cai Guo-Qiang from China and the Belgian master René Magritte.

How we look at the world around us is the central idea that guided the curator, Abdellah Karroum, in the process of choosing and interrelating the portraits, photographs, sculptures, installations and video installations that comprise this show. Looking at the World Around You: Contemporary Works from Qatar Museums is an open window onto diverse geographical regions and myriad socio-political realities, from North Africa to Southeast Asia. Relevant themes such as historical narrative, memory and identity are addressed in works brimming with subtlety, beauty and strength that portray the past and present of the artists who imagined and breathed life into them.

The exhibition explores the connection between art and history through multiple works, from René Magritte's vision of the Orient in Shéhérazade to the reflections of today's most dynamic, engaged Arab artists—Mona Hatoum, Amal Kenawy, Manal AlDowayan and others—on the problems and changes affecting the Arab world.

Here we find artists whose works bear witness to history at the moment of its unfolding. Curator Abdellah Karroum explains, "When Inji Efflatoun painted her self-portrait in prison or her fellow citizens in the countryside in Egypt, she was also portraying a society at a moment of historical changes that shape and reshape individual lives. Similarly, Ismail Fattah's dark portraits reflect burning lives, while Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani's work speaks of wars and [...] destruction." The show is, in the curator's words, "an invitation to look again and see anew; an invitation, in other words, to rethink the alignment of histories and how to make sense of the world today".

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