Qatar's dynamic young artists showcased in major Berlin exhibition

The largest ever exhibition of contemporary Qatari art has gone on display in Berlin, showcasing a dynamic generation of young artists, at least half of them women, presenting a society in a rapid state of flux.

Housed in Kraftwerk, a former East German electrical power plant better known nowadays as a techno palace, Contemporary Art Qatar includes almost 300 works by 73 artists.

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Amid hulking steel beams, in 80,000 sq ft (7,500 sq metres) of raw industrial space, the exhibition including photography, sculpture, video and painting documents artists’ responses to the transformation of their small peninsular Arabic kingdom in just four decades from a crumbling desert outpost into a rapidly expanding cultural and commercial urban centre, thanks to its huge oil and gas reserves.

“The essence of the exhibition is the changing perceptions of Doha, and it’s in the nature of our multi-cultural state that I honestly can’t tell you who is a Qatari-born artist and who is not; there are all sorts of people represented on the walls here,” said Reem al-Thani, the exhibition curator and an interior designer.

Among the most striking developments is the emergence of female artists in the contemporary scene. “Not so long ago, the modernists were almost all men,” Thani said. “And even many of them felt the need to hide their paintings from their families because there was an element of shame attached to it. Now at least 50% of the contemporary art scene are female and no artist feels inclined to hide what they do.”

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