Yet another publication has named Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), among the most powerful players in the art world.
This week, Al Thani, sister to the current Emir and daughter to the former one, topped the Art Review Power 100 for the first time, up 11 places from her 2012 ranking.
Among the main reasons for the title is the fact that she holds the purse strings to an estimated annual art fund of $965m. Speaking to the Guardian, the editor of Art Review Mark Rappolt, said she had gained her place because of “the sheer buying power, and what that means for the market.”
The newspaper lists several significant recent purchases, including $259 million for one of Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players and a reported $310m for 11 Rothkos, although these remain unconfirmed.
In 2011, the chairwoman topped Art & Auction magazine’s Power 100 list, the same year she hired Edward Dolman, former chairman of Christie’s International, to join QMA’s board.
Sheikha Al-Mayassa’s QMA has been spearheading a drive to bring a large volume of high-profile international art to Qatar in the last few years, both for the royal family’s private collection and for public display.
In the latter group are public art installations like Richard Serra’s Seven, Damien Hirst’s The Miraculous Journey, and Adel Abdessemed‘s Coup de Tête; the opening of Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern art; and the newly-opened, much publiczsed Damien Hirst retrospective at Al Riwaq, Relics.
According to Rapolt:
“As the art market and art scene generally has globalised, we are seeing a dominance of that sense of art as being something that is exchanged. What’s happening with Qatar epitomises that. It is symptomatic of a trend that you can have someone buying up western art, importing it to what is essentially the middle of the desert.”
Push and pull
Sheikha Al-Mayassa has made no secret of her desire to transform Qatar into a center for important art. In a 2010 TED Talk, she explained:
“We are revising ourselves through our cultural institutions and cultural development. Art becomes a very important part of our national identity.”
Not everyone appears to share that vision. Recently, the Qatar Museums Authority announced that it would be transforming itself from a government organization into a “private entity for public good” following a scathing newspaper column published in Al Arab accusing its expatriate management of corruption and nepotism.
QMA has also been criticized for its public art program, with some nationals expressing anger at the amount of money spent on the project, and dismay at “Coup de Tete,” which some said offended religious sensibilities.
Meanwhile, in a review of the Relics exhibition, the Economist expressed cynicism about Qatar’s art-buying efforts, stating that Hirst’s show “should even be able to lure people to the barren coast of the Gulf.”
It also suggested that introducing internationally-renowned art is part of an effort to “liberalise” Qatari culture:
“Some see in the QMA’s efforts an eagerness to appeal to the Western art world…But others glimpse a more subtle effort to liberalise Qatar’s local culture. Contemporary art may serve as a Trojan shark, so to speak, provoking debate about public representations of the body and freedom of expression.”
Every art patron has a purpose behind their spending. Sheikha Mayassa’s is to change the way the world views Qatar. Unfortunately, spending huge amounts of money on art gives the impression that Qatar is a creative nation, open to new ideas and willing to tackle controversial issues. This is, of course, a public-relations lie.
It’s all about the money. Powerful for the amount of money she controls not the knowledge and appreciation of art. Was she ever an artist of any kind? Art for arts sake. I’m sure the jailed poet could chime in on this subject.
I know that if Qatar spent the money on copying US technology rather than buying artworks, it would have a far greater affect on the creativity of the nation. This is the approach taken by China – train the population to be 21st-century craftsmen, and they will eventually innovate with their new skills.
And the US copied it from Germans. Similarly when Japanese first started making automobiles they were cheap copies and now look at their automobile industry.
Here it would be to train as a 21st century craftsman Manager. But not sure how you manage if you’ve never done the actual work. But that is the model here.
well I know if this is half true as you claim that it would’ve happened. fortunate for me I’m a art fanatic as the sheikha and thankful for her work… too bad others arent…
probably not. But neither was the chairman on Qatar 22 a footballer.
I don’t know if there was so much an intention to deceive the world into thinking Qatar is more progressive than it is, than a mistake from the government to think they can create progressiveness from the top down. For example, why should Qatari people place an importance on the arts just by building art musueums? Why should they when there is no arts curriculum K-12, and no art history department in any university other than VCU? No art education department in any university?
what a big accusation…
the only lies are what you’re saying (
please reread your comments out loud before posting I mean don’t bite off more than you can chew right?)
When it comes to making false statements about Qatar and Qataris here, you can pretty much say anything and be sure that not only well most agree with it, but God help you should you try to expose the inaccuracies and lies. You’ll be accused of “not being able to accept criticism like we do back home” to “you only want to hear nice things about Qatar”.
Hope to see QATAR stand high….because there was a time when you say to some one u live in Qatar, they used to ask where is this QATAR???? but now many knows where is QATAR…..main reason is FIFA !!!!!! and the money they have, being one of the richest country in the world…….:D
I’m curious about the 600 Million Pounds. Is this taken from the countries sovereign wealth? And if so, how do the majority of Qataris feel about the art they are collecting?
I see you brought your extra big spoon to stir up trouble 😉
LOL – more like a shovel, huh?!
But seriously, I was hoping to understand this issue a bit more cause I’ve never quite understood the issue of funding for such pet projects (which I do think have many positive aspects to them).
Oh, I’m sorry, I can explain, you see, SQUIRREL!
Where are all the Qataris that are so angry about the QMA and call in to complain about the exhibitions?
Were the “Qataris” here in Doha News the only or even biggest group of people who voiced their dislike of the exhibitions? I don’t think so.
Not all, but I was referencing the several self-identified Qataris in this thread. Stop reading something into my comment that isn’t there. I’m not attacking anyone; just wondering where the other voices are.
BTW As you know, Qataris were amongst the loudest and most public critics of the QMA. Nothing wrong with that, but their absence on this thread was a little surprising.
“Stop reading something into my comment that isn’t there.” Hehehe; I’m so gonna enjoy using your own words against in the near future. 😀
And your response to my post is . . .?
Lisa, you have touched the boundary. Beware.. 😀
Luckily my good friend Abdulrahman distracted everyone from my faux pas :-p
If I was backed by a wealthy country and no questions asked where I got the money, then I would be a very powerful player in the art market.
Fair play to her though, bringing a different type of culture to Qatar for the first time.
how low of you to claim her success over her wealth and status.
she worked hard for it like no other woman in the region.
and if you had half of what she had I’m scared to see your intake to the country.
But her success, wealth and status are all one in the same? She couldn’t have one, without the other two.
I doubt if she had started life as a fresh graduate working 12 hours a day and trying to save a deposit for a house and just paying the ordinary bills the rest of us have to do, then I would imagine she wouldn’t have had the same impact on the worlds art markets
can you clarify something for me!! what are you jealous from exactly her success,wealth or the family she comes from? there is no reason to be disrespectful shes not harming anyone as a matter a fact art is education
Not jealous at all. Don’t even know the lady. I was just pointing out that it is easy to be the most powerful person in the worlds art markets when you have fabulous wealth. An option not open to the rest of us
I get your point about privilege, but to be fair the art world and collecting is and has always been a rich person’s game. House of Medici, anyone?
Certainly true, art for arts sake.
and thats what pure jealousy sounds like
As I said not jealous at all. Without being born into privilege she would not have assumed this position to be able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars of money on art work. However bring born into privilege has its disadvantages as well, it is like living in a gilded cage, your life is not your own. So certainly not jealous. I’m happy with my life
Women like her and Queen Rania make me proud of this region.
I am so proud of all such women in the region who lead by example including Queen Rania, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser, Sheikha Ameerah Al Taweel, and certainly, Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, More power to you all