Kelly Crow’s magnificent story on the Al-Thani’s new museum in Qatar:
The museum is hard to miss, sprouting from an artificial island in the Persian Gulf located just off the sandy shore of Doha, the capital city. The architect Mr. Pei, inspired by the geometric forms of a 13th-century fountain at a mosque in Cairo, shaped the five-story museum like a staggered set of creamy building blocks, each cube adjusted just enough to catch a triangle of harsh light or deep shadow. Visitors can reach it by boat — there is a dock for dhows, an Arabian-style fishing vessel made of wood — or by traveling a palm-lined path and crossing a small bridge.
Inside, the dimly lit atrium feels like a futuristic temple. A pair of crescent-shaped staircases rises to a mezzanine level, while smooth stone walls shoot even higher to a dome whose metallic interior is crowned by an oculus.
But the museum is just the first step in a larger plan for Doha:
The emir needs to impress the global art establishment if he’s going to transform Qatar into a cultural hub. It’s a tall order, given the lavish museum plans and Las-Vegas-style tourist attractions already lighting up the nearby sheikhdoms of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. At first glance, Qatar’s scholarly minded Islamic art may not seem as provocative as Dubai’s indoor ski run, but art experts say the quality of MIA’s Pan-Arabian collection could make it the Met of the Middle East. (Sotheby’s has also decided to put down roots in Doha and plans to hold its first auction there March 18.)
Art’s New Oasis (Wall Street Journal)