No one can reject Qatar’s latest visual tradition and the impact of present-day changes in this Middle Eastern country on general awareness. Sister and other relatives of Qatar’s leader Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani buy the most expensive works of Western artists. The Department of Museums of Qatar in recent years has opened several cultural centers in the capital, which were built by famous world architects. Therefore, Qatar’s desire for the development of art is strong, redundant, and presented in various museums and installations created by the best artists in the world.
With the booming economies of developing countries, new players began to appear in the global contemporary art market. Collectors from Russia, China, and Latin America buy works by famous artists for fabulous money, but the leading force in the art market has become a small country in the Persian Gulf – Qatar. “Qatar’s economic freedom score is 72.6, making its economy the 28th freest in the 2019” (“Qatar”, 2019). Hence, in the late 2000s, Qatar decided to develop in the direction of fine art. Authorities launched the Qatar Vision-2030 program, which invests in education and the cultural sector. However, investing in art is not only an attempt to secure a prosperous future.
Thus, Qatar entered into competition with other countries of the Persian Gulf, in particular with the United Arab Emirates, to become the cultural center of the Arab world. The UAE ceased diplomatic relations with Qatar on June 2017 (Wood, 2018). As a result, Qatar wants to compete with the UAE in tourism too.
Undoubtedly, the construction of new museums gives hope that tourists will pay attention to another country in the Persian Gulf. “The galleries bring together landmark artists and pivotal works that redefine art practices and art historical narratives” (Mathaf Collection, Summary, Part 2, 2017). Furthermore, the management of Qatar museums has solved the problem of staff shortages since it actively attracts top-class foreign specialists. The Department of Museums of Qatar in recent years has opened several cultural centers in the capital, which were built by famous world architects. They include the Mathaf (Museum of Contemporary Arabic Art) and the Museum of Islamic Art, designed by the Chinese I. M. Pei. “I.M. Pie was first convinced that his own architecture would be modern” (Ferwati, 2013). Also, in 2016, the National Museum of Qatar will open the country’s main cultural center, designed by Jean Nouvel.
On the other hand, Qatar has long been criticized for the excessive authoritarianism of the political regime. Not everyone supports the fact that “Qatar is either a constitutional or an absolute monarchy” (“Qatar”, 2019). Although the authorities of the country pay attention to local artists as part of the culture development program, not all of them are satisfied with the cultural policy of the royal family. Young Arab artists note that the royal family favors artists with a neutral political position and does not allow the country’s art to develop naturally. The negative side of such a politics is criticized for suppressing freedom of speech and expression, including concerning artists, and for the extreme attention to star names. The positive side lies in the fact that authors of paintings and photographs from the Museums of Qatar still significantly contribute to the transformation of the visual identity of the nation.
It shows that now Qatar provides unprecedented creative opportunities for artists and photographers. This phenomenon has arisen due to the rapid economic and social transformations that are currently taking place in the country. These days, Qatar is deservedly a prosperous and actively developing country, where history and culture meet with new technologies. It is not a secret that the world is increasingly embracing the processes of modernization and globalization. As witnesses of these transformations, the people of Qatar are very proud of their country’s national identity and culture.
Ferwati, M. S. (2013, January). The Museum of Islamic Art: Form, perception, and environment. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/7618939/The_Museum_of_Islamic_Art_Form-Perception-_and_Environment.
Qatar. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.heritage.org/index/country/qatar.
Mathaf Collection, Summary, Part 2. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.mathaf.org.qa/en/collections/permanent-collection.
Qatar. (2019, May 9). Retrieved from https://www.unocha.org/middle-east-and-north-africa-romena/qatar.
Wood, J. (2018, July 24). How a diplomatic crisis among Gulf nations led to a fake news campaign in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-07-24/how-diplomatic-crisis-among-gulf-nations-led-fake-news-campaign-united-states.