Sheikha Al Mayassa: Qatari Princess and Chairman of the Museum Authority of Qatar

Grace Piney

Sheikha Al Mayassa, one of the most powerful women in the art world, is the daughter of the ruling Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. She is also the Chairperson of the Museum Authority of her native country. She is responsible for some of the most expensive art purchases in history.

In her early 30s. Sheikha Al Mayassa is already recognized as the most powerful woman in the art world of her native Qatar, a small Arab nation with strong cultural roots, according to Art Review’s Power 100 list and prominently appears on the Time 100 and Forbes‘ The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

Qatar is one of the richest countries on Earth. Despite being a small Emirate (population 1,600.000), it has the third largest oil and gas reserves on the planet. The country also buys more works of art and pays higher prices for them than the rest of the world. Sheikha Al Mayassa is one of its princesses, daughter of the ruling Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani with the second of his three wives.

sheikha al mayassa, qatari princess, middle eastern art, emir hamad bin khalifa al thani, museum authority of qatar
Museum of Modern Art.

Her father appointed her Director of the Museum Authority of Qatar, which oversees the Islamic Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, among other cultural institutions.

Some of the purchases attributed to Sheikha include Paul Gauguin‘s When Will You Marry? in 2015 for $300 million, Cezanne‘s The Card Players in 2012 for $250 million, as well as Mark Rothko‘s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) in 2007 for $70 million, a Damien Hirst pill cabinet for $20 million and works by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Francis Bacon.

sheikha al mayassa, qatari princess, middle eastern art, emir hamad bin khalifa al thani, museum authority of qatar
Museum of Islamic Art.

A degree in Political Sciences and Literature from Duke University (North Carolina) and additional curricula from Columbia University make her more than capable to handle these responsibilities.

She aims “to create a dialog between cultures and demonstrate that Islam and modernity are not incompatible.” In 2008 Qatar opened its Museum of Islamic Art, considered one of the best in the world.

The Museum of Modern Art holds more than 6000 pieces from artists who have lived and worked in the Arab world and are representative of the main themes that concern the region. The earliest works date from 1840, and the most recent could have been created yesterday.

The budget for the Museum Authority of Qatar is undisclosed, but Bloomberg has reported that their acquisition budget was US $1 billion. For now, it is in the hands of an intelligent and indomitable woman: Sheikha Al Mayassa.

On many occasions, the princess has spoken about the way art and culture shape the identity of a nation and allow countries to share their unique identity with the rest of the world.  ■

© | 2019