With every public relations initiative comes a backlash. In this case, the New York Times is now bearing down on Qatar’s efforts to use art as fulcrum for greater stature in the world. The story ultimately validates the success of Qatar’s efforts but also raises questions about the disconnect between the art market and Qatar’s lack of free speech:
There appears to be a high demand for the type of art scene that Qatar is developing. The West is in financial decline and opportunities for artists like those offered in the Gulf are scarce. Arts organizations and artists across the West are struggling because of cuts in arts funding. In this context, Qatar has taken up a key role in shaping the world of art.
Takashi Murakami, the Japanese artist, said in an interview that doing an exhibition in Doha was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realize a large-scale project that he could not have done anywhere else due to the lack of investment. […]
But the Qatar art scene may be partly stymied by a disconnect with its local audience. At the Louise Bourgeois exhibition at the Qatar Museum Authority’s gallery in Kartara, locals interviewed about the show said they failed to understand it, and one even said: “We find it ugly. We don’t understand why so many people come to see this work.”
A member of the local press corps who did not want to be named because of fears that he would be deported for his views, said the royal family did not “care about locals seeing the art shows,” adding, “All they care about is being seen oversees.”
Qatar’s Royal Patronage of the Arts: Glittering but Empty (New York Times)