Can billion-dollar investments put Qatar on the cultural map?

Posted filed underArab World, Business, Qatar.

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“If there is one thing Qatar has in spades, it is patience. It has long been overshadowed by its oil-rich, headline-grabbing neighbours in the United Arab Emirates, which boasts two international art fairs and plans to create Middle Eastern outposts of the Louvre and the Guggenheim. Oman, meanwhile, has already hosted the likes of Placido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli and Renée Fleming in its spectacular new opera house in Muscat.”

Tahira Yagoob is having a closer look at the cultural landscape in Qatar in The Independent: “Work on the art institutions in the UAE, however, has stalled, and wrangles continue over building contracts and the delayed delivery of Abu Dhabi’s $27bn (£16.8bn) museums district; meanwhile, Qatar has proven to be the come-from-behind horse, quietly stealing a march on its rivals by unveiling its own completed projects with little of the preceding fanfare.

In the bad old days when oil and liquefied natural gas first made this tiny Gulf nation one of the richest in the world, it was enough to splash the cash on fast cars, luxury yachts and designer handbags.

Now, though, Qatar wants to be taken seriously as a cultural contender – not only by buying in artistic endeavours from around the world but also in home-growing fresh local talent from scratch in a pointed mark of difference to its flashy neighbours in the desert. “We want to develop a local audience and captivate enough of the people in the world who would normally go to Paris or London,” declares Katara president Abdulrahman al Khulaifi.

It is a bold claim for a country which only came into existence in 1971 and is just over two-thirds the size of Yorkshire, with a third of the population; of the 1.8m largely expatriate residents, only 300,000 are Qatari. Never mind the social and political restrictions preventing criticism of the royal family or showing anything too controversial…”

Read the whole story in The Independent.

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