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Al Thani, Sa'ud Bin Muhammad Bin Ali (1964–) - PERSONAL HISTORY, INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS, BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS, PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:, THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE, LEGACY

art qatar sa’ud islamic

A native of Qatar, Sa’ud (also Saud) bin Muhammad bin Ali Al Thani has been described as one of the foremost art collectors in the world.

PERSONAL HISTORY

A cousin of the emir of Qatar, although from the rival al-Ahmad branch of the family, Al Thani was born in 1964.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

By the turn of the twenty-first century, Shaikh Sa’ud had established an international reputation as an avid art collector, both for his own collection as well as those of several state-owned museums he oversaw in Qatar. As president of Qatar’s National Council for Culture, Arts, and Heritage since 1997, he was entrusted with creating the collections to fill an ambitious program of world-class museums in Qatar, including a Museum of Islamic Art (designed by world-famous architect I. M. Pei), a combined Qatar National Library and Natural History Museum, a Museum of Photography, and a Museum of Traditional Clothes & Textiles.

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Sa’ud (Saud) bin Muhammad bin Ali Al Thani

Birth: 1964, Qatar

Family: Married; three children

Nationality: Qatari

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1997: President, Qatar’s National Council for Culture, Arts, and Heritage
  • 2002: Purchases more than £15 million on Islamic art on auction in Britain, including the Clive of India treasure
  • 2005: Dismissed from his post

Shaikh Sa’ud apparently bottomless pockets (one source estimated his purchases at U.S.$1.5 billion) and the wide scope of his interests attracted headlines. He regularly competed with rival Kuwaiti art collector NASIR AL-SABAH AL-AHMAD AL SABAH for such purchases. By 2003, observers were describing him as the world’s foremost buyer of art. In May 2004, his agents spent more than £15 million on Islamic art on auction in Britain, some of the pricier items being examples of Mughal jewelry. He also was known to snap up Turkish Iznik pottery, Mamluk glasswork, manuscripts, and metalwork, as well as Egyptian antiques and decorative artwork by Fabergé. His June 2002 purchase of the Jenkins Venus, a marble Roman statue of the goddess Venus, for £7,926,650, represented the highest price ever paid for an antiquity at auction. In April 2004, he paid £3 million for the Clive of India treasures, which formerly had been displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The British art establishment was so concerned about the prospect of such a treasure leaving Britain that the British government did not initially issue an export license for the item. Shaikh Sa’ud eventually stopped asking for a license, and the item remained in his possession but stayed in Britain.

Shaikh Sa’ud has also expressed an interest in wildlife preservation. He turned him estate at al-Wabra into a conservation center. In late February 2005, he was abruptly dismissed from his position and placed under house arrest for alleged misuse of public funds and his London office, the Islamic Art Society, was closed and liquidated.

THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE

The extravagant sums that Shaikh Sa’ud was willing to spend amassing Islamic art over the course of a decade starting in the 1990s made him a household name among international art collectors and prestigious auctions houses such as Sothe-by’s and Christie’s. His famous bidding wars with fellow collectors also drove up the price of Islamic art treasures to the extent that smaller collectors were edged out of the market. He once paid 113 times the estimated price for an object he wanted badly (a jewel-encrusted jade flask from Mughal India that was part of the Clive of India treasures, for which he paid £901,250). Within Qatar, his purchases sometimes raised eyebrows. This was particularly true with the Jenkins Venus, a sensual female nude statue, although the sums he spent also were the cause of some concern in Qatar.

LEGACY

Sa’ud bin Muhammad bin Ali Al Thani will be remembered for helping establish the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha as one of the premier collections of Islamic art in the world.

Alaïa, Azzedine [next] [back] Al Thani, Hamad Bin Khalifa (1950–) - PERSONAL HISTORY, Hamad Becomes Emir, BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS, PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:, INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

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