Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani
Philanthropy (Chairperson of Qatar Museums)
As chairperson of Qatar Museums since 2006, Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani spends a lot of money on art, with an annual acquisitions budget once thought to be $1 billion. She has focused her buying power on Western modern and contemporary art, including works by Damien Hirst, Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, and Andy Warhol, feeling that it is important for aspiring young Qatari artists to see what is happening on the cutting edge of the art world. “My father [the former Emir of Qatar] often says, in order to have peace, we need to first respect each others’ cultures,” the Sheika once told the New York Times.
Called the “modern-day equivalents of the Medicis,” the Qatari royal family reportedly dropped $250 million for Cézanne’s The Card Players in 2012, breaking the previous highest reported price ever paid for a work of art at the time. According to multiple sources, the Qatar Museums Authority was also buyer of a Paul Gauguin painting that sold in 2015 in a private sale held by Rudolf Staechelin, a former Sotheby’s executive. New York art adviser Todd Levin, who had heard rumors of the Gauguin sale, told the Times that “the price quoted to me at that time was in the high $200 millions, close to $300 million.”
Other notable acquisitions by the royal family include Mark Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender), purchased in 2007 for $72.8 million, and Andy Warhol’s The Men in Her Life, bought from Phillips auction house in New York in 2010 for $63. 4 million. Their philanthropic pursuits have been well lauded—in particular their commitment to establishing and expanding the collections of cultural institutions in the region, including the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, I. M. Pei’s Islamic Museum of Art, and others.