She’s well-educated and worldly
Her mother is a middle-class Qatari who studied in Cairo, but the sheika attended primary and secondary school in Doha. In addition to her native Arabic, she speaks French and English, and double majored in Political Science and Literature at Duke University, then received a master’s in International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She is married to Sheik Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, a cousin.
Robert De Niro used to be her boss
The sheikha apparently enjoys movies as well as artwork. She interned at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions, which led her to launch the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in her homeland. That event ran from 2009 until 2012, with the partnership ending this year.
Her art budget is staggeringly large
Ultimately, her power derives from control of the world’s biggest art budget. The Qatar Museums Authority, which she heads, is said to spend a whopping $1 billion per year on artwork, dwarfing outlays from famous institutions like MoMA and the Tate Modern. The QMA administers Doha’s IM Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art, the National Museum of Qatar, and several other institutions.
She gave a TED talk about bridging cultures through art
“Art becomes a very important part of our national identity,” she said in the December 2010 presentation, during which she wore a traditional black abaya. “Qatar is trying to grow its national museums through an organic process from within. Our mission is of culture, integration and independence.” She continued, “We don’t want to have what there is in the West. We don’t want their collections. We want to build our own identities, our own fabric, create an open dialogue so that we share our ideas and share yours with us.”
She’s paying huge sums for masterpieces
While the sheikha has said she wants to focus on Islamic art, her acquisitions send a different message. In recent years, Qatar has paid $70 million for a Rothko, $250 million for a Cézanne, and $20 million for a Damien Hirst pill cabinet—the most anyone’s ever shelled out for a work by a living artist. Qatar also has works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jeff Koons. ”They’re the most important buyers of art in the market today,” Patricia G. Hambrecht, the chief business development officer for Phillips auction house, told the New York Times. “The amount of money being spent is mind-boggling.”
That leads to a question: Are the purchases, details of which are closely held, made on behalf of the museums or Qatar’s royal family itself? Representatives do not comment on conjecture about about acquisitions, or even ”explain how they might benefit Qatar’s citizens,” the Economist reported.
Not everyone in Qatar is open-minded about art
Some art projects installed in the capital, Doha, have been quite daring. The sheika commissioned Hirst to create 14 giant, bronze, anatomically correct sculptures depicting a child developing in a uterus. The project, called “The Miraculous Journey,” was successfully installed and unveiled outside a women’s and children’s health center.