Doha, 8 July 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA).
According to The Art Newspaper, Qatar is one of the world’s major buyers of modern and contemporary art. A number of important transactions are said to have taken place at private sales and auctions.
The list of works thought to have been purchased by Qatar includes:
“The Merthkin Rothkos”, eleven works by Rothko sold to an “unidentified seller” for $310 million in 2009. The pieces are from the collection of the financier J. Ezra Merkin. Although it was initially rumoured that the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was the new owner of the Rothko’s, trustworthy sources have revealed that the works were probably sold to Qatar.
Pieces from the eminent Sonnabend collection are said to have been sold via GPS Partners, Inc. (Giraud, Pissarro, Ségalot) for $400 million. Major works by Roy Lichtenstein and Jeff Koons feature in this collection. Private negotiations took place in 2007 and 2008 and it is probable that Qatar is now the owner of these prestigious artworks.
Claude Berri initially promised a selection of nine works by Ryman, Reinhardt, Morandi, Fontana and Serra to the Centre Pompidou to obtain exemption from estate tax. However, the heirs of the film-maker finally decided to sell the entire set to Qatar for fifty million dollars. This transaction was also negotiated by Philippe Ségalot.
The Men in Her Life (1962) by Andy Warhol was sold at Phillips de Pury in New York for $63.4 million in November 2010. The transaction was once again organised by Philippe Ségalot, who maintains that the painting was acquired by American collectors. A source close to the broker claims that the American company is a second intermediary and that the final buyer could be Qatar.
American statistics indicate that cultural exports to Qatar totalled $428,162,894 from the period covering 2005 to April 2011, with a spike of $250.5 million in 2007, when Qatar purchased the famous Rockefeller Rothko, White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose), dating from 1950, for the amount of $72.8 million.
In the first four months of the 2005 to 2011 period, Qatar imported paintings and antiques from the United Kingdom to the value of £128,237,671. In addition, according to financial statistics, the State of Qatar also bought Lullaby Spring (2002) by Damien Hirst in 2007 for £9.2 million at a London auction.
There are numerous other examples of acquisitions: William Hoares’s painting Bath’s Portrait of Diallo (1733) was acquired for £555,000, but the export licence was refused by the British government and the work was loaned to the National Gallery in London. Qatar also purchased Les Chadoufs (1934) by Mahmoud Said for $2.3 million, which is now on view at Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha.