Forum introduces Russia to culture and contemporary art of Qatar

The key events of the “Qatar as the Guest Country” program were the discussion between Ministers of Culture of Russia, Qatar and Italy, the concert of Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the exhibition of contemporary art and photography. The program was timed to the Cross-Culture Year between Qatar and Russia 2018.

Today Qatar and Russia open a new page of the bilateral relationship. For the first time in history of the Persian Gulf countries, 2018 is the Cross-Culture Year between Qatar and Russia. At the same time, Russia passes Qatar the baton of being the host country of the FIFA World Cup; the Arab state will receive this large-scale sports event of the planet in 2022. The State of Qatar had the honorary status of the Guest Country at the VII Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum.

Qatar delegation to the Forum included the Minister of Culture and Sports of Qatar His Excellency Salah Bin Ghanim Al Ali, Ambassador of the State of Qatar to the Russian Federation His Excellency Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, Acting Director of Exhibitions at Qatar Museums Sheikha Reem Al-Thani, Curator of Public Art Department at Qatar Museums Sheikha Maryam Hassan Mohammed Al-Thani, Founding Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar Foundation, Dr. Amal Mohammed Al Malki, Director of Doha Film Institute Fatma Al Remaihi, Executive Director at Qatar National Library Sohair Wastawy, and other representatives of the museum and science communities of the country. Experts and culture activists of Qatar attended and spoke at practically all sections of the Forum.

The discussion entitled “Single Cultural Space: Myth or Reality?” was attended by the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Vladimir Medinsky, Minister of Culture and Sports of the State of Qatar His Excellency Salah Bin Ghanim Al Ali, and Minister of Cultural Heritage and Cultural Activity of Italy Alberto Bonisoli. The distinguished guests concurred in the opinion that culture helps establish peace and mutual understanding, both on national and international levels.

“Creation of a single cultural space is the topic which is extremely important and especially pressing nowadays, in our worrisome times.

80% of Qatar population are foreigners arriving from over 180 countries who represent diverse cultures. The remaining 20% are Qatar natives who cohabit with them. 180 cultures and nations are united by a common goal of Qatar’s revival.

The cultural diversity of our society does not pose a threat to Qatar’s identity. Qatar culture is open to all other cultures, and this openness is an evidence of strength and not of fear.

We express our gratitude to the organizers of the VII Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum. The Forum opens opportunities for further communication between our peoples and cultures,” said His Excellency Salah Bin Ghanim Al Ali.

During the Forum, the Russian audience was for the first time introduced to the works of contemporary Qatar painters and photographers, as well as international art professionals who worked in Qatar. An exhibition titled “Contemporary Qatar: Art and Photography” which opened in the Manege Central Exhibition Hall displayed 370 photographs, as well as paintings, sculptures, installations and other works of art. The exhibition project introduced Russia to the newest figurative tradition of Qatar and showed the impact of current whirlwind changes in the country on the Qatar society.

“It is a great honor for us to attend the event timed to the opening of the VII Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum. The Forum is rightfully considered one of the most important and significant cultural events worldwide. We can observe a great number of participants who come to the Forum from all six continents, and proudly bear our name of the Guest Country. In particular, in scope of the “Qatar as the Guest Country” program we brought the works of our outstanding photographers and contemporary artists. 

Notably, the year of 2018 has been especially important for us: is has become the Cross-Culture Year between Russia and Qatar. 32 events have been organized through the joint effort of the two countries in order to learn about each other’s culture. I am also very happy to see the interest of the Russian media to these events,” said His Excellency Fahad Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah at the press conference before the exhibition’s opening.

The exhibition was preceded by the symposium “Contemporary art: East/West” in scope of the “Fine Arts” section. In the symposium, representatives of the Qatar Museums shared the background of the exhibition and suggested points of contact between Russia and Qatar.

“Our preparation to the exhibition started one year ago, when we were offered to create an exposition of our country’s contemporary art. We worked hard to assemble young artists who create cutting edge art and have big prospects, to demonstrate diverse points of view and diverse ways of perception. Today we are discussing the relationship between the East and the West; this relationship, in a manner of speaking, is concentrated in the exposition of the contemporary art of Qatar,” said Sheikha Reem Al-Thani.

“Speaking of Russia and Qatar, we can say that both our countries are eastern for some of the western countries, and we can find similarity in diversity. The exposition of the exhibition that Qatar brought to Russia includes works of photographers who traveled around the entire Arabic peninsula to do interviews. Most of what we do is exchanges, including those in the scope of the Cross-Culture Year between Qatar and Russia 2018. We invite two photographers to study Qatar, whereas two Qatari photographers go to another country — and so the dialogue between two countries occurs.

The exposition includes a series of works dedicated to the changes and urban transformation: citizens of the country are waiting for the moment when Qatar will be the host of the FIFA World Cup. This year we also decided to display the collections of Qatar Museums where we keep historic photographs. Over time, photography has been a locomotive of cultural exchange, and we will exhibit the most significant photographs from our collection. We can see what captured attention of the photographers from different countries, what they found interesting,” recounted Sheikha Maryam Hassan Mohammed Al-Thani.

“Contemporary Qatar: Art and Photography” exhibition has been organized by Qatar Museums, School of the Arts of Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar and Doha Film Institute.

The live dialogue between Russian, Qatari and other cultures continued at the Concert of Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra “28” hosted by the State Academic Capella. The concert’s name alluded to the truly unique diversity of its musicians: currently they represent 28 countries of the world. The orchestra was conducted by the winner of VII Sir Georg Solti International Conductors’ Competition Elias Grandi (Germany).

The concert program was opened by a potpourri of world-famous national melodies of the countries that the orchestra musicians represent. Later the orchestra performed pieces by Qatar composers: “Spirit of the Storm” by Dana Al Fardan, “Seasons” by Nasser Sahim and “Onyx and Unicorn” by Wael Binali. The first part of the concert also included the performance by acclaimed Qatari baritone Fahad Al Kubaisi.

In the second part of the program, the orchestra performed a masterpiece of academic music of the 20th century: Symphony No. 5 by Dmitry Shostakovich. The concert memorably culminated in the original composition merging the anthems of Russia and Qatar. Together with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, it was performed by the Mariinsky Theatre soloist Irina Mataeva and Fahad Al Kubaisi.