↑ Grab this Headline Animator

Monday, November 24, 2008

Doha museum stakes cultural claim

A few years ago, prices in London auction houses went through the roof - not for the classic modern or contemporary art, but for works from the Islamic world.

Fabulous jewels, manuscripts and ceramics were fetching 10 times their estimate and more, and it soon emerged this was thanks to the al-Thani family, rulers of Qatar, the tiny gas-rich Gulf state.

They had tempted the veteran architect I M Pei - the man behind the glass pyramid at the Louvre - to design one last statement building, a spectacular museum on a purpose-built island in Doha, which would house only the best Islamic art.

Then they went shopping for their collection.

And this weekend the museum opens, a dramatic pile of white limestone shapes inspired by Islamic architecture and full of 800 of the finest examples of Islamic art.

Planispheric Astrolabe, Iran or Oraq, 985AD at the Qatar Islamic Art Museum
Many of these things, as well as being objects of beauty have functional usage, but then hidden beyond that is the sense of transcendence
Navid Akhtar
Designer and writer

Not long ago, the idea of culture being a reason to visit the Gulf would have made other Arabs laugh. No longer.

The Syrian cultural historian Rana Kabbani sees a political element to the museum, putting Doha on the cultural map.

"I think all the rulers in the Gulf see what they really lack is culture on a grand scale, as a kind of imperial identity. It's a political-cultural lack. They have the means, and they're going for it."

The hope is that - like hosting a Grand Prix or buying a football club - a fabulous collection of art will bring prestige, attract tourists and create a brand.

That's why along the coast, two museums are planned for Abu Dhabi - branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim.


Post a Comment

<< Home