Painting the History by Yan Pei-Ming

iconic portraits

In 2012, QM Gallery, Katara hosted Painting the History - an exhibition by Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming. He emphasised the power of painting as a medium for capturing events and iconic figures. He questioned the dominance of digital photography in journalism and argued that traditional art forms still have value in this context.

To strongly connect with the region, the exhibition was dedicated to modern Arab history. It included more than 100 watercolour portraits of influential Arab figures, including late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and Lebanese singer Fairuz.

Through outreach activities and experiments with presentation techniques, the experience engaged a broad range of residents.

New ways to delight

Visitors were asked to not only observe, but to actively participate in a collaborative art project called ‘Be Part of the History’. They recorded their portraits in interactive photobooths and uploaded them to a virtual gallery, which can be seen here.

In another example of innovation, a 24-hour blackout was staged at the exhibition, during which visitors could only view paintings using an affordable solar-powered lamp, called a Little Sun.

Watch Yan Pei Ming sketch a portrait of a local student
By using painting, Yan Pei-Ming gives a deeper meaning to photographs of famous people and events that have shaped modern history. He makes us think about history; and questions how it is written
Jean Paul Engelen, QM Director of Public Art
My paintings don’t need explanation. They just communicate; there is universality to them
Yan Pei-Ming

Exploring more

To empower people to explore their own creativity, free painting workshops ran alongside the exhibition and there was a special focus on student groups.

They were offered a day of activities and a tour with the show’s curator, Francesco Bonami.

They were also invited to play a game called ‘Know Your History’, with the winner getting their picture painted by Yan Pei-Ming himself.

Watercolour Portrait painting of Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayasa Al Thani by Yan Pei-Ming

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