Mostafa Heddaya January 31, 2014 at 1:28 pm

This is inaccurate: “There she will park her money, and her art.”

Sheikha Al-Mayassa heads the Qatar Museums Authority, not the Foreign Ministry, which is the transacting entity here. The foreign minister is Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, and the building will house a consulate, which has nearly nothing to do with the QMA or Al-Mayassa: as was reported in WSJ two days ago (for some reason not linked to here), the Qatari consul general has been working out of the Ritz-Carlton since last summer. I appreciate the attempt at connecting art spending with diplomacy, but being precise about actors is key to making the broader critique intelligible.

WSJ 1/29/14: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303973704579350641075915588

WhitneyKimball January 31, 2014 at 2:05 pm

From the New York Post:

“That’s because [the townhouse] is in turn-key, move in condition — and already set up to display and store art.
“Qatar plans to use the consulate as a place to showcase their own artists,” the source said.”

If “their own artists” refer to the artists of Qatar, then I think it’s reasonable to link Sheikha Al-Mayassa as a relevant party in this story. She does buy art on behalf of Qatar, she’s often described as a cultural ambassador, and she is the Sheikha of Qatar. We never reported that she’d be purchasing the property herself, but I understand that it could have been misconstrued. And I’ll link up the WSJ piece, that was an oversight on my part.

Mostafa Heddaya January 31, 2014 at 3:29 pm

You should probably link that too then, since what is omnisciently asserted has turned out to be from an anonymous source in the New York Post.

My point is that embassies and consulates very frequently contain art (e.g. the French Embassy cultural services building on 5th). Qatar’s presence in the global art market, as managed by Al-Mayassa, is disproportionately large and has diplomatic ramifications. The narrative in this piece does not delineate between these two things.

Also, Sheikha Mozah is “the” Sheikha of Qatar, not Al-Mayassa. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozah_bint_Nasser_Al_Missned)

WhitneyKimball January 31, 2014 at 9:03 pm

If anybody’s reading, Mostafa and I discussed this in more detail over email. He elaborated on a few distinctions which I’ll be keeping in mind and think are worth posting here for the record.

“…the broader critique I was referring to is just the general body of writing about Gulf art as an instrument of diplomacy and statecraft. And I do think there’s something of a political subtext to much of the New York Post’s reporting on Arab affairs (and in general, for that matter), so if their coverage is being used to link a pretty mundane real estate transaction to a more complex argument about art and diplomacy, I feel like that’s something that should be presented upfront too.

…I will grant that a hereditary monarchy is more monolothic in its mechanism of power than a democratic state, but do you really think that it’s fair to basically paint the entire Qatari foreign ministry apparatus as being driven by one young member of the family? The QMA/art acquisitions budget is a minuscule fraction of the state’s activities. It’s symbolically important, sure, but there are a lot of moving parts. And Al-Mayassa should be treated as someone who is part of a broader system and strategy (with many complicit parties, some very close to home) rather than a profligate cartoon villain (she’s barely out of grad school!).”

Point taken.

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