Doyen of Qatar’s Arts and Culture

7 months ago / by Swarnendu Biswas
Sheikha Al Mayassa
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani can be easily regarded as one of the doyens of Qatar’s art and culture and a highly influential person in the global art world. She had the coveted distinction of being featured as the most influential person in art on Art+Auction‘s top-10 list(2011)and on ArtReview‘s Power 100(2017). She was also featured among the Forbes Magazine’s Most Powerful Women in 2012.

She belongs to the Qatar royal family and is the sister of Qatar‘s presently ruling Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Perhaps the most important aspect of the biography of Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is her role as the Chairperson of Qatar Museums.

Institution Builder

Born in Doha, Qatar, the age of Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is 38 years.While exploring about Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani we can easily come to know that she earned her BA degree in political science and literature from Duke University in the US, in 2005.

 Following her graduation, Sheikha Al-Mayassa began her postgraduate studies in public administration from Columbia University in New York City but returned to Qatar when her father Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa Al Thani, now the former Emir of Qatar (he was the Emir of Qatar during1995–2013), appointed her as the Chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority in 2006. Then he was the Emir of Qatar. She didn’t complete her post-graduation. Qatar Museums Authority was later renamed as Qatar Museums.

She was given the responsibility to create a museum of Islamic art by her father Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, when she was in her early 20s. Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani is not only the former Emir of Qatar but also the founder of Al Jazeera. He played a crucial role in Qatar’s economic affluence.

After graduation she also established an NGO named Reach Out to Asia. The non-profit organization is engaged in providing access to primary and secondary education to children affected by crisis across Asia.

Here it deserves a mention that Qatar Museums is one of the organizations which is involved in carrying out Qatar’s National Vision 2030 program with the objective of comprehensive development, progress and prosperity of Qatar.

According to the website of Qatar Museums, it is Qatar’s preeminent institution for art and culture, dedicated towards providing authentic cultural experiences through an expanding network of museums, heritage sites, festivals, public art and programming.

Its lofty official mission is to preserve and enlarge the cultural endowment of Qatar, to share its art and culture with the world and to enrich the life of every citizen through access to local, regional and global perspectives. Qatar Museums covers within its broad art and cultural ambit traditional Islamic craft and historical objects to modern and contemporary art.

National Museum of Qatar, which is dedicated to bringing to life the unique story of Qatar and its people; 3-2-1Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, which is an international centre for sports history, heritage and knowledge; MAHTAF: Arab Museum of Modern Art; and Museum of Islamic Art are within the purview of Qatar Museums.

3-2-1Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum is probably one of the most classy dedicated to sports museums in the world. It is engaged in researching, collecting and disseminating the story of global and Qatari sport and is driven by the mission to offer an unforgettable, educational and interactive journey in documenting the significance of sports. At MAHTAF: Arab Museum of Modern Art one can savor a wonderful collection of modern and contemporary art and at Museum of Islamic Art one can find one of the most comprehensive collections of Islamic art. Here artistic masterpieces from every corner of the planet are being showcased, which can delight the art connoisseurs.

Her commitment towards Qatar’s art and cultural identity can be summed up this wise quote of hers: “We don’t want to be the same. We want to respect and understand each other…we want to build our own identity, our own fabric.”

Massive Acquisitions

One of the many times when Sheikha Al-Mayassa attracted news was in 2015 when she purchased the world renowned French post-impressionist artist Paul Gauguin‘s When Will You Marry for an astonishing $300 million, which is one of the highest prices ever for a work of art.  This oil painting dating back to 1892 is regarded among the most expensive paintings in the world.

Under her direction another of the many high value art purchases of Qatar Museum Authority included Cezanne‘s The Card Players, which was procured for $250 million in 2012. Five years prior to that, she also purchased Mark Rothko’s White Center (1950) for a $72.8 million in 2007.

No wonder as Chairperson of Qatar Museums Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani can be easily regarded among the most powerful art collectors of the world. In fact, it was reported in Bloomberg in 2013 that the annual acquisitions budget on behalf of Qatar Museums (then known as Qatar Museums Authority) was an estimated $1 billion, which gives ample indication of the enormous wealth at the disposal of this Qatar royal. Over the years, Sheikha Al-Mayassa has staged major exhibitions in Qatar with names like Takashi MurakamiRichard Serra and Damien Hirst.

The Miraculous Journey

In the conservative society of Qatar, her commissioning of Damien Hirst’s monumental 14-part bronze sculpture sequence showing the development of a human foetus in womb; culminating with a 46ft. tall sculpture of a baby boy, reflects considerable courage and her deep commitment towards art. The series of sculptures is aptly titled as The Miraculous Journey.

One can view these sculptures outside Sidra Medical and Research Center in DohaQatar. The work was unveiled in 2013.

Dedicated to Cinema

Sheikha Al-Mayassa also serves as the Chairperson of the Doha Film Institute which she also founded in 2010. According to the website of Doha Film Institute, the film institute is dedicated to film appreciation, education, and building of a dynamic film industry in Qatar that focuses on nurturing regional storytellers while being entirely global in its scope. One of the main objectives of establishing this non-profit cultural organization was to support the growth of the Qatari film community. The institute is engaged in promoting cinema, particularly Arab and Qatari cinema.

Doha Film Institute has constituted several strategic cultural partnerships with leading international organizations, as well as with its own Doha-based programs, in order to give filmmakers an opportunity to take part in top quality workshops and training.

Two major film festivals -The Ajyal and Qumra film festivals – are hosted by Doha Film Institute each year. During 1st-8th October of this year, the Doha Film Institute will present its 2022 Special Edition of the Ajyal Film Festival.  The Ajyal Film Festival came into being in November 2013 and it showcases family-friendly films from around the world. The festival is unique in the sense that its jurors are DFI members aged between 8-25 years, who take part in post-viewing discussions and vote for the winning films in every edition of the competition.

The Qumra Film Festival was introduced in March 2014, with the objective to showcase up-and-coming filmmakers.

Since its inception, DFI has supported more than six hundred audiovisual projects spanning across different stages or production, which include work of newcomers as well as award-winning filmmakers. The institute had also partnered with the Tribeca Film Festival to come up with several annual editions of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival.

Sheikha Al-Mayassa is also a member of the board of trustees at Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. For two decades this not-for-profit organization has been engaged in driving regional innovation and entrepreneurship, fostering social development and a culture of lifelong learning.

For those interested in knowing the enormous net worth of Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, it would be interesting to know that according to her net worth is $2.4 billion.


Who is Sheikha Al-Mayassa’s husband?

She andSheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz Al Thani were married in 2006. They have four sons and a daughter.

What is the educational qualification of Sheikha Al-Mayassa?

She did her graduation in political science and literature from Duke University in the US.

What is Sheikha Al-Mayassa known for?

She is most known as the Chairperson of Qatar Museums and as one of the important players in the art world.