Qatar, a tiny Arabian Gulf country with enormous wealth and breathtaking cultural ambitions, has become one of the most –if not THE most– influential buyers of art in the world today. The $250 million paid for one of Cėzanne’s five The Card Players in 2011, is the highest known price ever paid for a painting – four times the highest public price ever paid for a work by that artist, and twice the current auction record for any work of art.
Qatar is buying art masterpieces at a record breaking pace, as reported in the International Herald Tribune on July 23, 2013. No one knows exactly how much money has been spent on behalf of the Qatari Ruling Family, but suffice it to say it is mind boggling. Auction experts estimate the Qatari art acquisition budget reaches $1 billion a year and believe that the Qataris have used it to purchase a sizeable inventory of modern and contemporary masterpieces.
Cẻzanne’s post-Impressionist masterpiece, painted circa 1895, is an angular, moody representation of two Aix-en-Provence peasants in a card game.
Where will all of the art eventually end up is somewhat of a mystery. However, Qatar has three new high-profile museum projects designed by world-renowned architects in its capital, Doha, so the artwork will most likely be placed on public display. I would guess that that would be Cėzanne’s preference, if he were still alive.
Qatar made another major acquisition in 2011, hiring Christie’s chairman, Edward J. Dolman, as Qatar’s executive director of its Museum Authority. For a nation building a museum empire, Dolman brings instant credibility.