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.

    Ali Hassan, (Qatar), ‘Untitled’, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 97x130 cm. Image from Al bareh art gallery, Bahrain.

Ali Hassan, (Qatar), ‘Untitled’, 2008, acrylic on canvas, 97 x 130 cm. Image courtesy Albareh Art Gallery.

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.

Click here to read the article entitled “Qatar revealed as the world’s biggest contemporary art buyer” in The Art Newspaper.

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 Al Thani, Chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority. Image from pinchukfund.org.

Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, Chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority.

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.

   Jassim Al Zainy, (Qatar), ‘Features from Qatar’, 1973, oil on board, 48.5x78cm. Image from mathaf.org.

Jassim Al Zainy (Qatar), ‘Features from Qatar’, 1973, oil on board, 48.5 x 78 cm.

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.

Ramin Haerizadeh, (Iran), ‘I Heard Your Sound of Revolution’, 2010, mixed collage on canvas, 200x220 cm. Image from jamm-art.com.

Ramin Haerizadeh (Iran), ‘I Heard Your Sound of Revolution’, 2010, mixed collage on canvas, 200 x 220 cm.


Related Topics: market watchglobalisation and auctions, Qatar art happenings

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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