Damien Hirst — Britain’s wealthiest artist, and never one to stay under the radar for too long — has announced that his solo show this fall at the Qatar Museums Authority, his first in the Middle East, will also be his largest exhibition to date.
Under the patronage of the QMA chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, “Relics,” which will run from October 10, 2013 to January 22, 2014 at ALRIWAQ DOHA exhibition space (the same that recently showcased Takashi Murakami's “Ego” show), will span 25 years of the British artist’s career and will include both his most iconic work, such as his spot paintings, the formaldehyde animals from his “Human Nature” series, his diamond-encrusted skull (“For the Love of God” (2007), as well as previously unseen work. Though this is Hirst’s first show in the Middle East, it’s not his first supported by QMA, which also sponsored his retrospective at the Tate Modern last summer — the Museum’s most popular show, ever.
At the opening of the Tate show, Sheikha al-Mayassa said in a statement, “We were therefore delighted to be asked by Damien Hirst to support this show at Tate Modern. Hirst’s work represents a defining moment in British art, and to be associated with this event goes to the heart of Qatar Museums Authority’s mission of building bridges of hope, understanding and friendship.”
Hirst’s show in Qatar is curated by the Italian writer, critic, and curator Francesco Bonami, who is currently the artistic director of Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin and has served as the artistic director of the Venice Biennale in 2003. It will be something of a culmination of a year-long program of cultural projects, “Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture,” initiated by the QMA (the Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum are partners) and intended to showcase and further develop the cultural dialogue between the UK and Qatar.
Hirst, who has more or less become synonymous with the high-end art market, seems a perfect fit for Qatar. The emirate may be tiny, but it’s incredibly wealthy, with the highest per-capita income in the world — over $100,000 a year. In the past several years, it has become the world’s biggest buyer of art. As an example of the acquisition habits of its cultural elite, the royal family turned heads in February 2012 when it dropped $250 million for Paul Cézanne’s, “The Card Players,” an acquisition that broke the record for the highest price ever paid for a work of art.
Controlling the funds is Sheikha Al-Mayassa. In 2011, Art+Auction named Al-Mayassa the most powerful person in the art world. Her ability to lure the likes of Gagosian, and Dakis Joannou to a soiree at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, Qatar, for the opening of the Takashi Murakami exhibition, is well-documented. In 2011, Edward Dolman left Christie’s to become her advisor at the QMA and to handle acquisitions.
It seems that Hirst, who split with art dealer Larry Gagosian early this year, after 17 years of working together, and after the culmination of the worldwide showing of the “Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011,” is doing just fine.