Modern Art in the Gulf Region: The Case of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art

By Theofanis Karafotias.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: September 7, 2016 $US5.00

It is true that during the last two decades there has been a global interest in modern and contemporary art exhibitions in the Gulf region. Since museums in the Gulf region are different from those in the Western world in terms of visitation and engagement, the aim of this research was to take Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar, as a case study with a view to investigating the experience of its current and former visitors, understanding their level of satisfaction, as well as exploring the communicative aims, goals, and methods employed by this museum to engage the public. In order to collect all the necessary data, two methods were used. Firstly, a quantitative method through which both a questionnaire specially developed for the purposes of this research and a Mathaf feedback form available at the museum were evaluated. Secondly, a qualitative method, through which in-depth interviews with key staff members of Mathaf were taken. It was observed that the lack of a clear vision of the museum makes it difficult to communicate its purpose to the local audience. This gap in the communication is further inflated by the centralized policies of Qatar Museums that have deprived Mathaf of a Communications Department. Furthermore, the museum’s exhibitions are developed in a way that presupposes basic knowledge of and a good background in art on the part of visitors. It also seems that Mathaf has not yet managed to make people aware of its existence and purpose, partly because it is a relatively new museum. Among the most interesting findings of this research is the fact that the most important reason for visiting Mathaf was “learning” and that most of the communication elements employed by the museum were rated as positive. A significant number of visitors stated their “intention to re-visit” the museum, which was correlated with the fact that “the exhibitions corresponded to their interests and expectations.” The findings of this research provide Mathaf with a substantial understanding of its audiences and their motivations. However, further research is recommended so as to investigate further perceptions of year-round visitors as well as to identify the reasons why local audiences might not visit this museum in particular. These first findings in terms of evaluating Mathaf visitors’ perceptions and level of satisfaction with the museum can serve as guidance for Mathaf to employ improved communication models, marketing strategies, and targeted practices. The above, along with effective engaging, educative, and entertaining programming could lead to expanding its audiences, creating loyal visitors and increasing visitors’ satisfaction.

Keywords: Modern Art Museum, Gulf Region, Qatar, Communication Strategy, Audience Research

The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp.9-39. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: September 7, 2016 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.922MB)).

Theofanis Karafotias

Collection Specialist, National Museum of Qatar, Doha, Qatar


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