MIDDLE EAST CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET
Move over London, New York and Paris, oil-rich Qatar is fast emerging as the toast of the international art scene. The tiny Gulf state is on its way to becoming a hub of culture and heritage in the region with art acquisitions and museum and gallery expansion plans.
According to an article published in The Art Newspaper in early July 2011, Qatar is the world’s biggest buyer of modern and contemporary art today, and the Qatari Royal family is playing a pivotal role in the country’s artistic growth strategy.
Changing deserts into art oases
In June 2007, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and his wife Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, paid 9.7 million pounds (USD16 million) for Damien Hirst’s 2002 pill cabinet, Lullaby Spring, at a Sotheby’s auction. The Art Newspaper reports that another notable acquisition, believed to have been made by a buyer from Qatar, was Mark Rothko’s USD72.8m painting White Centre (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), the purchase of which set a new auction record for a post-war work of art.
Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir’s daughter, is a noted art collector and Chairperson of Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) and the article announces that Sheikha Al Mayassa has hired Edward J. Dolman, former chairperson of Christie’s International, to oversee QMA’s cultural initiatives and art expansion programme. According to US statistics quoted by The Art Newspaper, cultural exports to Qatar totalled USD428,162,894 between 2005 to April 2011.
Elsewhere in the Middle East
Other cultural hot spots in the region include Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Kuwait. There are now more than sixty art galleries in Dubai and Abu Dhabi alone and the international proliferation of art fairs and biennales has officially found its way into the region. Art Dubai was launched in March 2006 and Lebanon saw the return of MENASART Fair in July 2011.
Another royal making waves in the Middle Eastern art arena is Kuwaiti-born Sheikha Lulu Al Sabah, co-founder of JAMM, an independent strategic art advisory in Kuwait. The second edition of JAMM auction, held in February 2011 and conducted by Aileen Agopian, Vice President of Sotheby’s New York, saw a total sale of over USD 750,000, as stated on the organisation’s website.
- Financial Times discerns new collector type from BRIC, Middle East – July 2011 – the rise of the new art collectors
- Art Observed reports on Mathaf Arab art museum inauguration and preview – January 2011 – overview of inauguration of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha
- Maraya Art Centre hub for contemporary Arab art – December 2010 – report on one of the most fashionable venues for contemporary art in the UAE
- Sheikh Sultan opens private collection to public putting Sharjah on the UAE art map – August 2010 – article explores how Dubai seems to be at the forefront of cultural and financial investment in art
- Middle East art scene today is like London in nineties – Judith Greer – international art collector – April 2009 – enlightening post on contemporary art in the Middle East
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