A one year project, ‘The Art Souq’ will investigate the creation of an arts facility designed to support Qatar’s art and culture sector by providing work space, specialized equipment, and training in specialized skills for artists from Qatar, from the Gulf region, as well as visiting international artists from around the globe. The project is led by Rhys Himsworth, director of Painting and Printmaking; Byrad Yyelland, director of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Johan Granberg, assistant professor of Interior Design at VCUQatar. “The outcome of the research will be a plan for building an artists’ studio complex – a social place, a place of production – that truly embodies the context of Qatar,” says Granberg.
Qatarʼs current investment in the visual arts rivals that of any other nation. The nation is now one of the leading collectors of contemporary art in the world and recent solo shows by international artists such as Takashi Murakami and Cai Guo Qiang affirm the same. Museums such as the Museum of Islamic Art and Mathaf- Arab Museum of Modern Art, along with the many other institutions opening in the near future not only demonstrate the desire to showcase international contemporary art but to develop collections with a focus on artists of Arab, Muslim and Middle Eastern backgrounds.
VCUQatar’s Painting and Printmaking program, the first fine art program in Qatar, triggered the idea for the Art Souq. Himsworth says, “We start graduating students soon; there is a need to create a physical structure for them to interact with local and regional artists.” This desire, together with the Qatar government’s policy of expanding artistic institutions and collections, demonstrated an opportunity to research, plan and implement a strategy for developing an artistic community within Doha, for Qatari artists, regional artists, resident artists and graduates.
The research project, which began this January, takes the form of visiting similar projects internationally, market research into the needs of local artists and Qatari institutions and researching environmentally sustainable structures. Technical as well as societal aspects and conditions for the project will be investigated as well. Examples of this may include commissioning surveyors, architects and engineers to assist in researching costs, material quantities, and project timelines. “A project plan like this takes intensive period of research, planning,” says Yyelland, “and our backgrounds are integral to bringing all of the different aspects of the project together.”
With Himsworth’s background in fine art and Granberg’s in architecture contributing to the above-mentioned aspects, Yyelland’s background in sociology and anthropology looks at the challenges and opportunities in forming a community of this nature, the social aspects of what the design can be, as well as at hiring agencies to help develop creative solutions for integrating ethically sourced workforce into the development of this community.
The final stage of the project includes developing a comprehensive project plan with a physical design based on the research as well as interpretations of the design, academic papers, a documentary and a publication.
Himsworth, Granberg and Yyelland say they’re honored and thrilled to be working on the project. “The grant demonstrates the seriousness in which QF, QNRF and Qatar value the fine arts. We are very impressed and deeply appreciative of this.”
Left to right: Rhys Himsworth, director of Painting and Printmaking; Johan Granberg, assistant professor of Interior Design and Byrad Yyelland, director of Liberal Arts & Sciences