Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar was considered a powerful player on the global art market, rumour would have it that on the news of his impending presence “art dealers and auction houses would dust down their best stuff, add a nought or two, and await his visit” – states Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor.
Sheikh Al-Thani served as the country’s president of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage, from 1997 to 2005; during this period he oversaw the development of the oil-rich nation’s ambitious plans to build an extensive network of new schools, libraries, and museums. He also spent well over $1 billion on art purchases during his tenure, this was more than any other individual, according to many art-market observers.
The Sheikh died suddenly at his home in London on November 9th, age just 48. The details of his death have not been announced, although initial reports say his death was from natural causes.
Qatar’s royal family has long been known for its extensive collecting of art and historical artefacts, this ranged from ancient manuscripts to contemporary art. Over the past two decades, Sheikh Al-Thani acquired a vast collection of art and other artefacts. Al-Thani concentrated on historical pieces, including Islamic ceramics, textiles, scientific instruments and jewellery.
The sheikh’s huge collection is spread across five existing and planned museums: the Museum of Islamic Art, the National Library, the Natural History Museum, a Photography Museum, and a museum for traditional textiles and clothing.
Sheikh Al-Thani was also a collector of vintage cars, bicycles, antique furniture, and Chinese antiquities. In 2005, Al-Thani was dismissed from his post and the circumstances surrounding the Sheikh’s purchases and holdings were investigated; resulting in his relatives accusing the collector of embezzling many millions from family members and misappropriating public funds. However shortly afterwards Al-Thani was cleared of any wrong-doing, and returned to his position as a powerful international player in the global art market.
This was followed by a High Court judge in London in 2012 freezing $15 million worth of the sheikh’s assets during a dispute over unpaid bills to auction houses. The auctioneers Baldwin’s, Dmitry Markov and M&M Numismatics, accused Al-Thani of defaulting on bids for items from the Prospero Collection, a cache of Greek coins.
Image courtesy of BPFILARDO