Cover Story

Marks of a masterpiece

February 17 - February 23, 2021

Gulf Weekly Naman Arora
By Naman Arora

Gulf Weekly Marks of a masterpiece

Passionate pop-culturist Hamad Al Kooheji hopes to secure the world record for the most number of authentic autographs at his special signature museum.

While autographs can trace their history to the first scratched by a scribe on an Iraqi clay tablet circa 2600BC, collectors, known as ‘autograph hounds’ have seen their numbers grow since the birth of the cinema industry and the advent of the movie star.

Hamad boasts more than 500 autographs but he plans to more than double his collection before applying for a vaunted spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, which does not currently have a set record for ‘most number of autographed items.’

“In all the countries I have visited, I have never seen a museum dedicated purely to autographs,” the 27-year-old Bahraini collector told GulfWeekly.

“So, with the aim of making Bahrain a hub in the autograph collecting world, I started visiting events in Bahrain, across the region and wherever I went on holiday, to collect a hand-signed autograph ideally alongside my name.

“In addition, wherever I spot an autograph shop, I pick up a few pieces. In particular, I have been working with Hollywood photographer and autograph dealer Michael Medlin who has met countless celebrities during his career and helped me get off to a solid movie start.”

A personalised autograph by movie star Michael Fassbender thanking Hamad for flying out to meet the German-Irish actor is the crowning jewel in Hamad’s collection.

Hamad has sorted his collection into categories based on cinematic universes and put them on display at his Masterpiece Museum in Riffa.

There are sections devoted to The Godfather, Rocky Balboa, Harry Potter, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Detective Comics (DC) Cinematic Universe, Star Trek, Star Wars, Disney, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and more – covering almost every degree on the popular nerd culture spectrum.

The ‘nerdvana’, which opened its doors last summer, is unlike any other museum in the region, as it is also the home of carefully handmade models, LEGO sets and other archetypes of popular cultural phenomenon.

The young Bahraini, who left behind a career in aviation to launch this venture, explained: “I started collecting when I was a child. I was the boy with autographs on my walls and some of the coolest toys, which I kept in their original box in mint condition.

“My friends and family always wanted to see what new items I had in my collection and over time, some of them even kept their own mint-condition action figures and memorabilia with me.

“I started to keep some of these items in storage and when that started filling up, I knew I was ready to found this museum.”

An homage to memorabilia, Hamad’s collection also inspired him to start creating his own pieces of popular culture – miniature versions of famous statues and landmarks.

He can be found almost every evening curating and creating pieces for his museum, perfecting a centre aimed at attracting, in particular, the younger masses.

Learn more about how Hamad is reusing age-old material to revitalise one of Bahrain’s traditional industries.

More on Cover Story