Photo: Courtesy of Artefactory/Atelier Jean Nouvel
Oil-rich, Qatar is poised to become a Middle Eastern hub of the global art market and further enhance its position as a cultural destination just in time to host the 2022 World Cup. Recent purchases of modern and contemporary art by the royal family, the House of Thani, headed by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, have sent shock waves throughout the art world.
The Emir and Clan Connected To Staggering Purchases
An estimated $400 million has been spent by Qatar in the past six year on cultural imports from America alone, making this small city-state on the Persian Gulf the biggest art buyer on the planet. While sales details are sketchy, it has been confirmed that Qatar is connected to the acquisition of many Mark Rothko paintings, including White Center(Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) for $72. 8 million; Francis Bacon’s Study from Innocent X for $52.7 million; major works by Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons; and “Men in Her Life” by Andy Warhol, purchased at Phillip de Pury in 2010 for $63.4 million.
Sheikha Al Mayassa, daughter of the Emir of Qatar, is a driving force behind this Middle-Eastern surge into the Western art market. Following the emir’s failed attempt to buy Christie’s Auction House, headquartered in London, she succeeded in hiring Edward J. Dolman, chairman of Christie’s to oversee art acquisitions for Qatar Museum Authority and supervise the construction of the sprawling new National Museum of Qatar due for completion in December 2014.
Jean Nouvel Creates A Futurist Desert Spectacle That Embraces Tradition
Designed by French architect, Jean Nouvel, the structure occupies over 400,000 sq. ft. of real estate along the Doha Corniche, a waterfront promenade, in the capital city of Doha. Nouvel’s visionary theme consists of interlocking discs in seemingly random formations along the 1.5 million sq.ft. length of desert terrain. The concrete formations seem to rise up from the desert floor with a beauty and precision of a Desert Rose. Surrounding the museum will be an expansive landscaped park. The complex’s low profile pays homage to an ancient land on which traditions have been built over millennia that today speak to the future. The niches created by the abstract configurations recall a nomadic past. Within the complex the old National Museum, the Fariq Al Salatah Palace, sits protected from time and shifting cultural currents. These are the doors and window openings of a makeshift lifestyle frozen in time, made stable and permanent in remembrance of the caravanserai, an ancient roadside inn, that supported transportation, commerce, and communication for weary travelers along desert trade routes, such as the Persian Royal Road.
Qatar vies for Cultural Superiority in a Middle East Art Destination
But, Qatar is not alone in its quest for cultural superiority among the neighboring emirates in the Middle East. Collectively, the region could form an amazing, must-see destination for an art/travel itineraries in the tourism and hospitality industry. Consider the completion of the Bawadi mall, the world’s most expensive shopping mall in Dubai, or the eventuality of two art world powerhouses, the Guggenheim and the Louvre, establishing palatial outposts on Saadiyat Island, near the city of Abu Dhabi. Louvre Abu Dhabi enlisted Nouvel for the 260,000 sq. ft. monument due to be completed in 2012.The final cost is expected to be in the range of 83 million and 108 million euros. Guggenheim Adu Dhabi engaged internationally renowned Frank Gehry to etch their brand on the arid landscape. At 450,000 sq. ft., this will be the largest structure in the Guggenheim Foundation.
Do you think the efforts of Qatar and Abu Dhabi are a sincere attempt to move Middle Eastern culture into the 21st century?