DOHA—From fashion to fine art, Layla Bacha has made her way quickly to the top of Qatar’s art scene. As the Qatar Foundation’s senior art specialist, she manages an art portfolio that includes major public artworks and museum collections.
It is no small task for the young art executive. The position makes her a key player in the foundation’s efforts to bring art into the mainstream of a modern, multinational state and advance the careers of young Qatari artists.
She does not take this responsibility lightly. “This is what I believe artwork should be about,” Bacha said, “the ability of engaging different people from the public in conversations around it.”
Born in Syria, Bacha joined the foundation in 2014 as an art curator and now oversees its public art strategies, collection management, commissions of major artworks, and the art tours program. She completed a master’s degree in museum and gallery practice at University College London’s Qatar campus last year with a dissertation on public art policies in Qatar, a fitting topic for her current role.
The foundation’s public art collection has around 150 artworks on display in various buildings around Education City, and includes works by well-known modern artists like Tracey Emin, Ivan Navarro and Damien Hirst, and the final installation artwork of the late Indian-Qatari artist M.F. Husain. Bacha recently oversaw the installation of Husain’s monumental work, Seeroo fi al-Ardh, in a structure specially built for it in Education City.
From Damascus to Paris to Doha
Bacha’s academic career has been colorful as much as international. As an undergraduate she studied fashion at the Damascus campus of Esmod, the French international fashion school, before moving to Paris to study plastic arts at the Sorbonne. She has been in Doha since 2008, where she started a career as gallery manager and art consultant at Souq Waqif Art Centre.
Doha, with its gleaming skyscrapers, is a long way from the centuries of traditional culture still highly visible in Syria and France, and it has indeed been a shift for Bacha to find her way in a decidedly more modern landscape.