In a courageous move that reveals the new Arab Museum of Modern Art is not afraid to be controversial, one of its opening exhibitions, Told/Untold/Retold: 23 Stories of Journeys Through Time and Space, confronts issues that range from Iraqi politics to the Gaza strip. Featuring 23 specially commissioned artworks – including paintings, sculpture, photography, video and multimedia installations – each piece vividly tells a story that might sometimes appear specific to the Arab World but the message of which always transcends the borders of the region.

Although the exhibition does not open until December 30, art critics were given a preview last week at the opening of Mathaf, and were universal in their praise for what is claimed to the largest exhibition of contemporary art in the Arab world to date.

One of the highlights of the show is “Three Love Songs”, a video and sound installation by Baghdad-born Adel Abidin who now resides in Helsinki. Consisting of three videos that show a pretty blond female singer performing in a soft cabaret style, the juxtaposition comes in the form of the lyrics which are in fact the chants of the former Iraqi Ba’ath regime. It is an intelligent warning of the dangers of seduction by propaganda that can be identified with internationally.

This is an exhibition filled with emotion and nostalgia, as evidenced by “You Never Left”, a film and a series of prints by Cairo-born, New York-based Youssef Nabil. Nothing less than Nabil’s life story to date, his installation is an intimate account of his family relationships, which the viewer cannot help but become immersed in and empathise with.

Taken on its own, Told/Untold/Retold is an outstanding show of contemporary art, no Arab prefix required. Housed within an impressive new exhibition hall, it is world class is its layout for which its curators, Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, should be applauded. But taken in the context of its site within the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art and within a short distance of the main building of the Arab Museum of Modern Art, this is a show that balances Doha’s cultural offering from ancient to modern and cutting edge contemporary art, and reveals the intelligent vision behind Qatar’s cultural ascent.

"Told/Untold/Retold" brings together twenty-three artists with twenty-three commissioned works that mark a significant departure, a new way of looking at both art and the world. It is the first and largest exhibition of contemporary art on this scale within a museum context in the history of the Arab world. In a world where everything is in motion, artists are not confined within rigid cultural identities based on the traditional geography. The exhibition invites you to look at artists, not as national representatives but as 'transmodern' artists in consistent metamorphosis. "Told/Untold/Retold" seeks simply to let the artists speak, free of stereotypes or contrived connections.”

- Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath, co-curators of Told/Untold/Retold.

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Told/Untold/Retold is on show at a satellite space in the grounds of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar.
December 30, 2010, through May 28, 2011