The Qatari revolution is artistic

One of Paul Cezanne’s paintings in a series called The Card Players. Qatar bought this for a reported $250 million

Qatar is a small country in the Arabian Gulf which tends to go relatively unnoticed. Or least it did. That was until it was named host of the 2022 World Cup and the biggest contemporary art buyer in the world.

Now as the news that Qatar last year purchased a Paul Cézanne painting for a record breaking secret deal of $250 million leaks out, the oil-rich nation is making headlines as a serious art hub again. This is more than double the previous record-breaking amount spent on a piece of art. Qatar is now part of an exclusive 5-member club of ‘The Card Players’ series owners – a club which also includes the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation.

And the driving force behind it all? Shaikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, the 28-year-old daughter of the Emir of Qatar who spent her first job reportedly “picking up breakfast pastries for Jane Rosenthal” at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York (this is mentioned in the Vanity Fair article).

She is now heading the Qatar Museums Authority and has spent the last week tending to a Takashi Murakami exhibition which opened there, the first of its kind in the Middle East, featuring a giant inflatable replica of the prolific Japanese artist. For the last two years, Qatar has funded Murakami in his exhibition at the Palace of Versailles in France and now they have brought it to Qatar’s capital, Doha.

As she says in her mission statement for the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha:

“Mathaf’s mission is to expand peoples’ ideas about art in the region to show that the story is bigger, more exciting, and more surprising than might be supposed”.

Her mission statement for Qatar, however, is to “break the walls of ignorance between east and west”.

Al Jazeera news channel, which is headquartered in Doha, reports that the country’s royal family is allegedly spending hundreds of millions of dollars to establish the country as a world-class art destination. See their report on Qatar’s spending spree below.