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.
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.
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. ■