There has been much ado about Qatar’s cultural ambitions, which even laymen in Europe are aware of thanks to well-publicized acquisitions such as Cezanne’s ‘Card Players’, which commanded the highest price ever paid at an auction for a painting. The recruitment of Christie’s former CEO by the Qatar Museums Authority, the amazing museums and cultural institutions built or being built by famous architects, such as I.M. Pei, Rem Koolhaas and Jean Nouvel, or Qatar’s sponsorship of the famous artist Takahashi Murakami all fascinate the international art community.
The true art of Qatar, however, may lie in its skill in using its wealth to position itself as a global player. Its efforts in the field of culture are but one aspect of a multi-faceted, apparently well thought-out strategy of influencing the world to its advantage. If Machiavelli were alive today, he would probably seek employment as an advisor to the Qatari ‘prince’, or, to put it more generously, the Al Thani of Qatar seem to be the equivalent of the Medicis of the Italian renaissance.
Before examining the art sector, we should first elucidate the role it is playing within the general development strategy of the State of Qatar.