Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani joined leading international advocates at Art for Tomorrow, a summit exploring the social and economic impact of the arts, held in Florence and Solomeo, Italy, from 26 to 30 April.

With discussions moderated by senior New York Times journalists, Art for Tomorrow convened an influential group of speakers including artists, government officials, leaders of cultural institutions, and patrons of the arts. It also featured a variety of panels and special events relating to some of the most pressing issues affecting the arts today.

Heritage for Tomorrow

HE Sheikha Al Mayassa participated in the conversation Heritage for Tomorrow, which focused on how organisations are managing to preserve valued cultural assets while addressing urgent challenges such as mass tourism and climate change.

Art For Tomorrow

Speaking in her role as Chairperson of Qatar Museums, she said that when it comes to Qatar, from the very beginning, the strategy was to develop the local and regional culture and celebrate heritage: Islamic culture, Arab culture and Qatari identity.

She set as an example the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ), with the palace of Sheikh Abdullah bin Jassim, the son of the founder of Qatar, as the museum’s jewel, which she said was preserved as it is.

We wanted people to appreciate the size and scale, and see how their family lived because showing how people lived in the past is interesting for us to study and understand.

Her Excellency said that the notion of people living with their families is something that still exists today in society, and she said they want to preserve that, even as they are building modern institutions and being part of a more global and connected world.

Joining HE Sheikha Al Mayassa in the conversation were former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, and the German Ministry of Culture General Secretary. The discussion was moderated by New York Times journalist Farah Nayeri.

Heritage preservation

During the panel, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa hailed Qatar’s exemplary cultural heritage protection strategies while underscoring the importance of heritage preservation to Qatar’s national identity and its people.

She said that heritage preservation is not just about showing people beautiful things and informing them about important issues. It is thinking about how current habits need to change and show how everyone can participate in making a difference.

One area where Qatar has been very strategic is in repurposing and upcycling historic buildings to create new cultural experiences. HE Sheikha Al Mayassa shared that they have chosen the Flour Mill, which is still active and is the primary source of bread throughout Doha, as the site for the Art Mill Museum.

We did the same with the Fire Station which was an old civil defence building and was converted into our artist-in-residency space.

We could have developed new buildings in the desert and started from scratch, but instead of creating new buildings, we have chosen a more sustainable strategy that also honours our history.

Qatar was well-represented at other Art for Tomorrow events throughout the summit. Qatari artist Shouq Al Mana discussed how her practice is rooted in culture, identity and tradition that combines the past and present. Qatar Museums Deputy CEO Sheikha Reem Al Thani also hosted a conversation about the arts ecosystem and promoting the arts in other sectors.

Art for Tomorrow

Art for Tomorrow was the first of two significant cultural initiatives taking place in Italy this spring featuring Qatari participation. The second, the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, will open in Venice this May.

Qatar will have two exhibitions presented by Qatar Creates – the documentary exhibition Building a Creative Nation, the first presentation outside the country of Qatar’s next generation of cultural institutions; and Onomatopoeia Architecture, featuring works from acclaimed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, sponsored by Qatar Creates.

Both exhibitions will be on view at ACP-Palazzo Franchetti throughout the Architecture Biennale from 14 May until 26 November.

To learn more about these events, visit qm.org.qa

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