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Art Attack: Qatar’s bid for cultural stardom

Art Attack: Qatar’s bid for cultural stardom

Will Qatar, a relatively new country with a still budding local art scene itself, become the world’s museum through acquisition?

July 14, 2011 2:47 by



Qatar has become the world’s biggest art buyer “after a massive spending spree by the royal family to enhance its cultural portfolio before the 2022 World Cup,” according to the Guardian.

This latest label only follows Qatar being named cultural destination of the year two years ago.

According to The Art Newspaper, US statistics indicate that cultural exports to Qatar totalled $428,162,894 in the period 2005 to April 2011, with a spike of $250.5 million in 2007, the year Qatar bought the “Rockefeller” Rothko, White Center (Yellow, Pink and Laven­der on Rose), 1950, for $72.8 million.

Of course the country’s love affair with art didn’t just spring up like a well. The royal family has always had a huge interest in the arts. But it is interesting how Qatar is pulling in global art and entertainment. Is the intention to entice the world to come to Qatar? Kipp supposes art and global culture is as good a start as any, the 2006 Doha Asian Games didn’t pull the desired tourism effect and the World Cup win remains a point of contention among football enthusiasts.

According to The Art Newspaper, among the purchases Qatar is believed to have made are:

• The “Merkin Rothkos”: A $310m deal saw 11 Rothkos sold by court order to an “unidentified buyer” in 2009.

• The Sonnabend estate: $400m worth of art from the estate of the famous art dealer, comprising major works by Lichtenstein and Koons. The deal was negotiated privately in 2007-08.

• The Claude Berri dation: A group of nine works by Ryman, Reinhardt, Morandi, Serra and Fontana was promised to the Pompidou Centre in Paris in lieu of tax. But the heirs of the film ­director finally sold them through Ségalot for about €50m to Qatar; he did not deny this but said “the reality was less exotic than the French press said at the time”.

• Andy Warhol’s The Men in Her Life, 1962, which sold for $63.4m at Phillips de Pury in New York in November 2010, in a sale ­orchestrated by Philippe Ségalot.



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