Qatar is World’s Biggest Contemporary Art Buyer after $430M Spending Spree

Damien Hirst piece purchased by the Qatari royal family.

The United Arab Emirates have been on the up-and-up, as recently evidenced by their upscale mega-malls, luxury residential towers, and Qatar’s most recent accolade as the world’s biggest buyer of contemporary art. The emirate may be tiny, but their buying power is big after the royal family went on a massive art shopping spree to enhance the emirate’s cultural portfolio in anticipation of the 2022 World Cup. According the UK’s Guardian, Qatar has been responsible for the majority of contemporary and modern art purchases from the past six years, including works by artists like Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko.

The emirate’s collection of art has been growing so rapidly that Edward Dolman, chairman of Christie’s, resigned last month to take on a position as adviser to Qatar’s museum authority. He will oversee art acquisitions for their new museums, including the National Museum of Qatar that is slated to open in 2014. Dolman comments, “Qatar is looking to deliver a series of exciting cultural projects in time for the World Cup in 2022.”

A slew of high-profile art museums have opened recently, including the upcoming National Museum of Qatar, which has been designed by Jean Nouvel and is a futuristic complex of several buildings inspired by a desert rose. The upcoming opening is highly anticipated and is the most prestigious of the ongoing projects. All of this is evidence of the royal family’s willingness to invest heftily into contemporary western art in order to attract more cultured tourists.

So far, it looks like it’s working. Two years ago, the New York Times named Qatar the cultural destination of the year and Artnews named the royal family’s Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed bin Ali al-Thani one of the world’s top 200 art collectors. In the last six years alone, Qatar has spent almost $430 million on cultural imports from the United States alone.