Under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and H.E. Sheikh Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al Thani, and a number of VIPs, Qatar Museums opened a special exhibition previewing the vision for the new Lusail Museum. Lusail Museum: Tales of a Connected World at QM Gallery Al Riwaq showcased plans for Lusail Museum, its architectural design, and its world-class collection of art. This introduction to the new institution, which is scheduled to break ground in 2023, is presented as part of the year-round national cultural movement Qatar Creates.
Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron, the Lusail Museum building will be constructed in Lusail, the home of Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed bin Thani, the statesman, diplomat, and poet who was the founder of Qatar.
The overarching exhibition, Lusail Museum: Tales of a Connected World, highlighted the past, present, and future of Lusail through images of archaeological remains, the Lusail Heritage site, and Lusail today as a flourishing city. The exhibition comprised 247 objects, many from the world’s most extensive collection of paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, rare texts, and applied arts, assembled by Qatar Museums. An immersive, interactive digital trail complemented the exhibition and the visitor experience and included films from the Doha Film Institute, as well as soundscapes introducing historical and contemporary musicians from around the globe. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Xavier Dectot, Director of the Lusail Museum with design by Studio Adrien Gardère. Estithmar Holding is the Presenting Sponsor of Tales of a Connected World.
Titian, Suleyman the Magnificent, ca. 1540,
oil on canvas, 72.4 x 61 cm. Lusail Museum Collection.
Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, William Hoare, 1733, oil on canvas.
Lusail Museum Collection-Doha. OM.762
Tales of a Connected World placed the museum and Qatar at the heart of the Indian Ocean world, exploring how the robust trade routes that carried people, objects, and ideas around the globe influenced the way people interact to this day. Key stories included Wajbah as the site of the epoch-making battle between Qatari and Ottoman forces, Jerusalem as the crossroads of faiths, 10th century Córdoba, Nineveh, and the Court of Sultan Suleyman. Qatar is center-stage again in the exploration of the artist Eugene Delacroix’s fascination with the Arabian horse and horseman, a fascination which persists globally today – Sheikh Jassim Bin Khalifa Al Thani’s Aljassimya Farm is one of the largest breeders of Arabian horses in the world.
The extraordinary collection is always at the centre of the exhibition’s narrative. Notable works and their potential for multiple readings in today’s globalised world are displayed in diverse ways – from a dense hang evoking the display techniques of the 19th century Salon in which such works would originally have been seen, to a focus on individual objects which capture key historic moments, to a juxtaposition of historic and contemporary works that illuminate changing ideas about people, ideas and encounters.
One example of the exhibition’s re-focussing of the gaze is the presentation of story of Amanirenas, Queen of the Kingdom of Kush (in what is now Sudan and southern Egypt), who had led her armies against Rome just a few years before the far better known story of Antony and Cleopatra. The exhibition explored how one story is neglected and the other celebrated, showcasing objects including props and costumes from the 1963 film Cleopatra and Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s painting The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC (1884). Reasserting the importance of Kush and other African civilisations, the gallery also featuresd a first edition of The Voyage to Meroe by Caillaud and images from Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser’s visit to Meroe, where the iconic pyramids are being restored by the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project (QSAP).
Film played a central role in the exhibition – visitors encountered film clips, stills, models and costume elements from Hollywood films including the 1924 classic The Thief of Bahgdad, Cleopatra (1963), as noted above, Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and the blockbuster Star Wars movies. Classics of world cinema included Zaineb Hates the Snow (2016) directed by Tunisian film-maker Kaother Ben Hania and Taste of Cherry (1997) by the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. The Portrait of Suleyman the Magnificent from the workshop of Titian (1843-1844) was displayed as one of the star objects exploring the enduring legacies of global encounters, alongside other significant paintings such as Mariano Fortuny y Marsal’s Arab Before a Tapestry, José Tapiró y Baró’s A Moroccan Bride (1860), and Rudolf Ernst’s Outside the Selim Türbe, Istanbul (1885). Objects capturing the ideas, creativity and technological advances that travelled across the Indian Ocean world included the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), a rock crystal chess piece from 10-11th century CE Egypt and one of the first printed editions of the Book of Wonders by Marco Polo (1529).
The central space in the exhibition is dedicated to the architecture of the new museum. This space is curated by Herzog & de Meuron and presented the design process through wall projections and a large floor installation showcasing working models, concept images and material samples. The room also included a newly commissioned model of the Museum.
The exhibition included two interactive programming spaces. The first was the Lusail Museum Think Tank space, which reflected the plans of the future Museum to foster new ideas through interactions between audiences and philosophers, sociologists, historians, and diplomats. While the exhibition was on view, visitors were invited to contemplate and challenge perceptions of the Arab world presented in the artworks on display in the exhibition. The second space presented a changing programme of short films from DFI’s archive that speak to the themes of the exhibition and future Museum.
The Lusail Museum will be located on Al Maha Island, Lusail, complementing the newly opened Lusail Wonderland Park developed in association with Estithmar Ventures and IMG, in collaboration with Qatar Tourism and Qatari Diar.