In her late 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 very 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. Keep reading below to see how this princess has used her passion and love for art to spearhead the Museum of Qatar.
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.
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, and is 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 representatives of the main themes that concern the region. The earliest works date from 1840, and the most recent pieces of art have extremely recent pieces that could have been created yesterday.
The budget for the Museum Authority of Qatar is undisclosed. For now, however, it is in the hands of an intelligent and indomitable woman: Sheikha Al Mayassa. We recommend listening to her TedTalk in which the princess explains how art and culture create the identity of a country and allow it to show and share its singularities with people from the rest of the world. This isn’t the first time the Qatari princess has spoken about the way art and culture shape the identity of a nation, however, to help further explain her point she delves into the concept of “We don’t want to be all the same, but we do want to understand each other.” To learn more about the princesses ideology check out her TedTalk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/sheikha_al_mayassa_globalizing_the_local_localizing_the_global.
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