Remember during the Gulf War when Christopher Hitchens helpfully pointed out that Qatar, the tiny Middle Eastern emirate that provided military bases for American troops, is pronounced “cutter”? Now the Arab state is gaining attention in the West for something else — its rather sudden emergence as the world’s leading buyer of contemporary art. According to a New York Times report, Qatar’s buyers now make up 25 percent of the Middle East’s entire $11 billion art market, and the state’s recent high-profile purchases— paying a reported $250 million for classics like Cezanne‘s Card Players and $72.8 million for Rothko‘s White Center—are setting staggering new benchmarks for the global art market at large. Spearheaded over the last three years by Sheik Hassan bin Mohammed bin Ali Al-Thani and his daughter, Sheika Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani (a former intern for the Tribeca Film Festival who brought the film event to Doha), the drive to buy up Western masterpieces is being led by former Christie’s chairman Edward Dolman—and one expert predicts that “more of the world’s best paintings will be heading to Qatar in the next three years.” However, not everyone in Qatar is thrilled by the epic cultural spree: the emirate’s own artists are largely being left behind, languishing underfunded in a collecting climate that privileges trophies from abroad over homegrown art.
– QUOTE OF THE DAY –
“If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art. At this point art became more of an activity and less of a product.” – Bruce Nauman on art-making, as quoted by Christopher Knight in a review of Richard Diebenkorn‘s Ocean Park Series on view at the Orange County Museum of Art. (Check out work by Bruce Nauman available for purchase on Artspace.)
– MUST READ –
For It Before Being Against It – It turns out that David Eisenhower, the former president’s grandson, was an “enthusiastic supporter” of Frank Gehry‘s impressionistic plan for Ike’s official memorial for a decade before the Eisenhower family suddenly began execrating the design in the press. (LAT)
How the Happenings Happened – Barbara Pollock interviews Pace Gallery matriarch and resident art historian Millie Glimcher about her Happenings show, explaining how the splendid exhibition arose from a bout of carpal tunnel surgery. (Artnet)
The Lenny Bruce High Quality Foundation? – The New York Times turns its lens on Hennessy Youngman, the YouTube art sensation who memorably skewered Damien Hirst (“money is his medium”), calling him “a court jester to the art establishment.” (NYT)
Fun at PS1 – Darren Bader, whose criminally under-reviewed show at MoMA PS1 is both a burlesque of and a mash note to conceptual art, will be throwing their weekly Sunday Session this weekend, which is a great opportunity to see the exhibition.
There Will Be Art – Josephine Meckseper‘s new public art project, a pair of Ellsworth Kelly-ish oil derricks pumping away at a vacant Midtown lot (created through the Art Production Fund), are “a little surreal, like a portrait of John D. Rockefeller by Magritte.” (NYT)
– ART MARKET –
Sotheby’s Earnings Fall Off – The auction house has disclosed that fourth-quarter profits declined 26 percent, slipping to $71.5 million from $96.2 million a year ago, though Sotheby’s also touted 2011 as a whole as rampantly successful, with “private sales up 65% to [a] record $814.6 million,” interestingly enough. (Bloomberg)
Sharing a Goddess – London’s National Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland have jointly purchased Titian‘s sumptuous masterpiece Diana and Callisto (1556-59) for $72 million, thanks in part to donations from the art-loving public. (Reuters)