Qatari Riches Are Buying Art World Influence
More than $70 million for Rothko’s “White Center” in 2007, a high-water mark for that artist.
More than $20 million later that year for a Damien Hirst pill cabinet, then a record for a living artist.
And $250 million for Cézanne’s “Card Players” in 2011, the highest known price ever paid for a painting.
Given the secrecy of the art market, few knew at the time who had laid out such unprecedented sums.
But it has become increasingly clear that those masterpieces and many more have been purchased by Qatar, a tiny Persian Gulf country with enormous wealth and cultural ambitions to match: it is buying art at a level never seen before.
“They’re the most important buyers of art in the market today,” said Patricia G. Hambrecht, the chief business development officer for Phillips auction house. “The amount of money being spent is mind-boggling.”
The purchasing is directed through intermediaries by Sheika al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority and a sister to Qatar’s new emir. At age 30 she has become one of the most influential players in the art world.