Artistic Influence

Islamic art museum marks cultural shift in Gulf | THE GUARDIAN | NOV 24, 2008

The Gulf states are famous for their shopping malls and skyscrapers, but now they are intent on promoting their cultural heritage with an ambitious plan to open a string of museums after Qatar unveiled a spectacular showcase for Islamic art at the weekend.

The collection housed in the Museum of Islamic Art may not be the biggest in the world but it is a contender for being the most impressive.

Built on an artificial island on reclaimed land, the museum, designed by one of the world’s leading architects, IM Pei, holds 800 artistic and historical treasures from three continents and illustrates Islamic culture spanning 1,100 years.

The inauguration was attended by heads of state and celebrities, including the Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, who will bring his long-established Tribeca film festival to Qatar next year, it was announced yesterday.



Qatar sets scene for film industry | FINANCIAL TIMES | FEB 11, 2009

Tribeca Film Festival Doha is the brainchild of Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, daughter of Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar’s emir.

Sheikha Mayassa knows the Tribeca festival well. While a student at Duke University, North Carolina, a few years ago, she became an intern at TFF because she was interested in adapting a novel to film and wanted production experience.

Ms Rosenthal, producer of films such as Wag the Dog, Analyse That and Meet the Parents, did not foresee that TFF would become a cultural ambassador on a global scale. The festival initially began as a one-off event to help heal New York and revive a devastated neighbourhood.

Ms Rosenthal had worked in the New York neighbourhood for nearly 20 years and in 1988 co-founded the Tribeca Film Center with Mr De Niro, a long-time collaborator and friend. When the first hijacked aircraft struck the World Trade Centre, she was just a couple of blocks away. “The horror was right in front of me,” she recalls.

Mr De Niro, Ms Rosenthal and her husband Craig Hatkoff, hatched the idea for TFF and launched it just four months after 9/11.

The three were intent on bringing people back to lower Manhattan to “get back to normal”, Ms Rosenthal says.



Most Powerful Women in New York 2007: Jane Rosenthal | CRAIN’S | 2007

Tribeca Productions/Tribeca Enterprises

Jane Rosenthal is the business brains behind the wheel of New York’s most famous taxi driver: Robert De Niro. The duo, who founded Tribeca Productions in 1989, has produced 22 movies.

Perhaps Ms. Rosenthal’s most important contribution to the city, however, came in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. She and Mr. De Niro, along with Ms. Rosenthal’s husband, real estate financier Craig Hatkoff, launched the Tribeca Film Festival to help revive downtown.

“As filmmakers, the only thing we knew how to do was to screen pictures,” says Ms. Rosenthal, 50.

The first festival, in 2002, attracted 150,000 visitors. The event has grown into an annual celebration of worldwide film and culture that most recently brought in 500,000 people for screenings, concerts, family events and panel discussions.

“We are everybody’s festival,” says Ms. Rosenthal. “You don’t just have to be in the movie industry to come to TriBeCa.”

In addition to her dealings downtown, Ms. Rosenthal is active in Democratic Party politics as a fundraiser–she’s backing Sen. Hillary Clinton for the 2008 presidential race. Top mayoral aide Patricia Harris, who has worked with Ms. Rosenthal since the first festival, says, “Anytime the city needs her help, she is always ready to lend a hand.”

—Adrianne Pasquarelli



Tribeca Film Festival and Qatar Museums Authority To Launch ‘Tribeca Film Festival Doha’ in November 2009 | NEWSWIRE | NOV 24, 2009

DOHA, Qatar, Nov. 24 /CNW/ — Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), the organization edicated to developing the cultural resources of this Arabian Gulf state as a platform for international dialogue and understanding, has announced a groundbreaking agreement with New York’s world-renowned Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), to launch a world-class international film festival, Tribeca Film Festival Doha. The first festival will take place November 10 – 14, 2009 and be presented at Doha’s celebrated new Museum of Islamic Art and in cinemas across Doha.

The announcement of the cultural partnership was made at a special ceremony at the new Museum of Islamic Art, which was attended by Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Chairperson of the Qatar Museums Authority Board of Trustees, and Abdullah Al Najjar, Chief Executive Officer of the Qatar Museums Authority. Joining on behalf of the Tribeca Film Festival were the co-founders, Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff.

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Building Museums, and a Fresh Arab Identity | NEW YORK TIMES | NOV 26, 2010

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — It is an audacious experiment: two small, oil-rich countries in the Middle East are using architecture and art to reshape their national identities virtually overnight, and in the process to redeem the tarnished image of Arabs abroad while showing the way toward a modern society within the boundaries of Islam.

To a critic traveling through the region, the speed at which museums are being built in Abu Dhabi — and the international brand names attached to some of them — conjured culture-flavored versions of the overwrought real-estate spectacles that famously shaped its fellow emirate, Dubai. By contrast, Doha’s vision seemed a more calculated attempt to find a balance between modernization and Islam.

But in both cases leaders also see their construction sprees as part of sweeping efforts to retool their societies for a post-Sept. 11, post-oil world. Their goal is not only to build a more positive image of the Middle East at a time when anti-Islamic sentiment continues to build across Europe and the United States, but also to create a kind of latter-day Silk Road, one on which their countries are powerful cultural and economic hinges between the West and rising powers like India and China.



Qatar Purchases Cézanne’s The Card Players for More Than $250 Million, Highest Price Ever for a Work of Art | VANITY FAIR | FEB 2, 2012

With this landmark score, the tiny, oil-rich nation joins a massively exclusive club: only five Card Players exist, and the other four are in world-class collections such as the Musée d’Orsay and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The purchase is just the latest bid in Qatar’s effort to become an international intellectual hub.

The tiny, oil-rich nation of Qatar has purchased a Paul Cézanne painting, The Card Players, for more than $250 million. The deal, in a single stroke, sets the highest price ever paid for a work of art and upends the modern art market.

If the price seems insane, it may well be, since it more than doubles the current auction record for a work of art. And this is no epic van Gogh landscape or Vermeer portrait, but an angular, moody representation of two Aix-en-Provence peasants in a card game. But, for its $250 million, Qatar gets more than a post-Impressionist masterpiece; it wins entry into an exclusive club. There are four other Cézanne Card Players in the series; and they are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay, the Courtauld, and the Barnes Foundation. For a nation in the midst of building a museum empire, it’s instant cred.

Qatar (and its capital city, Doha) isn’t just a destination for those with private jets. It’s also a burgeoning intellectual and media hub. It hosts the headquarters of Al Jazeera, the Mideast campuses of Georgetown, Texas A&M, and Northwestern Universities—and of one the most ambitious sets of cultural goals since the robber barons and empire builders of America founded so many grand institutions a century ago.

Qatar does big things in a spectacular way. In 2008 when it opened the Museum of Islamic Art, a grand limestone behemoth by I. M. Pei, a flotilla of vintage ships sailed in V.I.P. guests representing the world’s great museums. Later, Robert De Niro floated up from the sea in a revolving open-air elevator to announce the Tribeca Film Festival was starting a Doha outpost.

In 2010, Qatar opened its Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the Qatar National Museum, currently closed for renovation by superstar architect Jean Nouvel, will reopen in 2014. That’s where the Cézanne could end up, flanked by some famous Rothkos, Warhols, and Hirsts that the Qataris have been snapping up in a buying spree.

How did Qatar get the Cézanne? For years, Greek shipping magnate George Embiricos had owned and treasured the painting, rarely lending it. He was “entertained” but unmoved, according to one art dealer, by occasional offers for it that climbed ever higher alongside the art market in past decades. A few years ago, the painting was listed by artnews magazine as one of the world’s top artworks still in private hands.

Shortly before his death in the winter of 2011, Embiricos began discussions about its sale, which was handled by his estate. Two art dealers—William Acquavella and another, rumored to be Larry Gagosian—offered upward of $220 million for the painting, people close to the matter said. But the royal family of Qatar, without quibbling on price, outbid them, at $250 million.

The region’s glamorous arts expansion takes place in the shadow of the Arab Spring, of course, but that hasn’t stopped the showmanship game. This is a play for fame, tourism, and immortality—and the buyers are well versed in Hollywood-style hype. The daughter of Qatar’s emir, 28-year-old Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, now heads the Qatar Museums Authority. But her first job was working as an intern in New York for the Tribeca Film Festival. (She once bragged, laughing, that her job was picking up breakfast pastries for Jane Rosenthal.) Next week, she’s hosting the opening of the Murakami exhibition.

Is the buying spree over? Not a chance. Qatar made another major acquisition last year, hiring Christie’s chairman Edward J. Dolman as executive director of the Museums Authority.



Jane of All Trades | NEW YORK MAGAZINE | MAY 6, 2002

“Jane is a high-powered executive, but she’s very much a girl,” says the blonde Isham; the two of them have a running joke about the blonde versus brunette view of life. A world-class networker, Rosenthal has a loyal cadre of girlfriends who include Wasserstein, Caroline Kennedy, Comedy Central Films vice-president Patty Newburger, and veteran TV reporter Perri Peltz

The intensely wired Rosenthal met her easygoing husband when he was representing De Niro on a real-estate project. “Jane is a doer, and our entire marriage has been about working on projects together,” says Hatkoff, citing the construction of their Bridgehampton home, and their decision to hold a political salon in their living room, where framed photos of the Clintons perch on a side table. Rosenthal and Hatkoff became involved with Democratic fund-raising in 1997 at the instigation of Hatkoff’s older sister, Susan Patricof, and her husband, venture capitalist Alan Patricof, who befriended the Clintons back in 1991. “We asked Jane and Craig to do a fund-raiser,” says Susan, “because we were looking for a younger crowd, for people who hadn’t been exposed to the political scene.” Rosenthal, of course, pulled out all the stops: Her first foray featured De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio at the height of his Titanic fame, and a cast of movers-and-shakers for a $25,000-per-person dinner at which Clinton played the saxophone.



A vast network for donors | WASHINGTON POST | MAR 18, 2015

Craig M. Hatkoff  $100,001 – $250,000



Craig Hatkoff (husband of Jane Rosenthal) | WIKIPEDIA | APR 17, 2017

Hatkoff is Chairman of Turtle Pond Publications which owns or invests in a number of new media, entertainment and publishing ventures.[6] Hatkoff is the co-founder of Capital Trust and served on the board of Directors.[7] He also serves on the Boards of the Taubman Centers Inc., Wildlife Direct, the NYU Child Study Center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Sesame Workshop and The Borough of Manhattan Community College Foundation.[8][9][10][11]



The Child Mind Institute | Board of Directors | APR 17, 2017

Brooke Garber Neidich, Co-Founder and Chair
Debra G. Perelman, Co-Founder and Vice Chair
Arthur G. Altschul Jr.
Lisa Domenico Brooke
Phyllis Green & Randolph Cōwen
Mark Dowley
Elizabeth & Michael Fascitelli
Margaret Grieve
Jonathan Harris
Craig Hatkoff
Joseph Healey
Ellen & Howard Katz
Christine & Richard Mack
Anne Welsh McNulty
Julie Minskoff
Valerie Mnuchin
Daniel Neidich
Amy & John Phelan
Josh Resnick
Linnea Roberts
Jane Rosenthal
Jordan Schaps
Linda Schaps
Zibby Schwarzman
David Shapiro
Preethi Krishna & Ram Sundaram



Clinton & the Child Mind Institute (NYU Child Study Center) | JohnGraysonBlog

TL;DR: Hillary specifically requests a staffer to switch to a personal email. Said staffer receives spam, yet her entire email address isn’t disclosed (even though it’s not classified). Spam pertains to an advocacy thinktank, founded by a man who personally advocates for pushing drugs on children, yet his institution runs on the belief of the concept DBT (which is completely the opposite approach). Founded by a man who was fired from a public institution with a very cozy relationship to Bill Clinton. Thinktank claims to be impartial, independent, and non-funding – yet they previously hired Hillary PAC staffer. Second Wikileak email highlights cozier-than-normal relationship between founder of dubious institute and Hillary Clinton.



Qatari Riches Are Buying Art World Influence | NEW YORK TIMES | JUL 22, 2013

The prices have been record breaking, and startling.More than $70 million for Rothko’s “White Center” in 2007, a high-water mark for that artist.More than $20 million later that year for a Damien Hirst pill cabinet, then a record for a living artist.And $250 million for Cézanne’s “Card Players” in 2011, the highest known price ever paid for a painting.

Given the secrecy of the art market, few knew at the time who had laid out such unprecedented sums.But it has become increasingly clear that those masterpieces and many more have been purchased by Qatar, a tiny Persian Gulf country with enormous wealth and cultural ambitions to match: it is buying art at a level never seen before.

The purchasing is directed through intermediaries by Sheika al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority and a sister to Qatar’s new emir. At age 30 she has become one of the most influential players in the art world.

No one knows exactly how much Sheika al Mayassa has spent on behalf of her family or the museum authority since she was named chairwoman by her father, the former emir, in 2006. But experts estimate the acquisition budget reaches $1 billion a year and say the Qataris have used it to secure a host of undisputed modern and contemporary masterpieces by Francis Bacon, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons.

Where all this art will eventually end up remains something of a mystery. But it seems clear that, just as Qatar has used its oil riches to boost its influence in the Middle East with ventures like arming Syrian rebels, its wealth is also being deployed to help the country become a force in the world of culture.

Auction houses and galleries will often wine and dine these collectors before a big sale. Significant works will be flown to their homes. The Qataris don’t take part in this. They delegate their purchasing to a handful of experienced art advisers who do it for them — initially the dealers Philippe Ségalot and Franck Giraud and now Guy Bennett.

Mr. Bennett, a former co-head of Christie’s Impressionist and Modern art department worldwide, is known as a master dealmaker. He is just one of a number of Christie’s alumni who have taken on roles with Qatar. In June 2011 Edward Dolman, the auction house’s former chairman, was named executive director of the Qatar Museums Authority. Jean-Paul Engelen, the director of public art programs for the authority, is also a Christie’s veteran.

The Qatar team typically buys from dealers, though some of its most major purchases have been at auction. Experts said that another intermediary may act on Mr. Bennett’s behalf so that the sales cannot be traced to the Qataris, who want to keep their buying private to prevent driving up the market and fueling speculation about their plans.

“They are very secretive about their purchases and activities in the art market and I am not quite sure why,” Mr. Nash said.



 



 

What Are The Top 10 Al-Thani Family Art Acquisitions? | ARTNET | NOV 14, 2014

1. Paul Cézanne, The Card Players, $250 million
This masterpiece is supposedly the most expensive work ever sold.

2. Mark Rothko, White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender), $72.8 million
This “Rockefeller Rothko” was reportedly purchased by the Al-Thani family at a Sotheby’s auction in May 2007.

3. Andy Warhol, The Men in Her Life, $63. 4 million
Philippe Ségalot reportedly orchestrated the acquisition of Warhol’s 1962 work. It was sold at Phillip’s in New York in November 2010.

4. Fabergé egg, $9.57 million
The egg was bought at a Christie’s auction in New York in 2002.

5. James John Audubon, Birds of America, $8.8 million
The late Sheikh Saud Al-Thani purchased this masterpiece, which at the time was the world’s most expensive book.

6. The Clive of India Flask, $5 million
During Sheikh Saud’s shopping spree in London, he beat London’s V&A museum to purchase the £3m Clive of India flask.

7. Girault de Prangey, The Temple of Jupiter in Athens, $922,490
When Sheikh Saud purchased this photograph in 2003, he set a new record (beating one of his own previous purchases) for the most expensive price paid for a daguerreotype and for a photograph.

8. J. Ezra Merkin’s 11 Rothkos, $310 million
The family supposedly bought 11 Rothko paintings from financier J. Ezra Merkin when he had to liquidate the largest Rothko collection in the world due to his involvement with the Madoff scandal.

9. Werner Bokelberg‘s Photography collection, $15 million
Sheikh Saud in 2000 bought up Bokelberg’s 136 photograph collection which included masterpieces by Man Ray and Alfred Stieglitz.

10. Damien Hirst, Lullaby Spring, $19 million
Damien Hirst‘s pill cabinet was purchased in the spring of 2007 at Sotheby’s.



 

9/11 wicked but a work of art, says Damien Hirst | THE GUARDIAN | SEP 10, 2002

The artist Damien Hirst said last night he believed the terrorists responsible for the September 11 attacks “need congratulating” because they achieved “something which nobody would ever have thought possible” on an artistic level.

Hirst, who is no stranger to controversy, said many people would “shy away” from looking at the event as art but he believed the World Trade Centre attack was “kind of like an artwork in its own right”.

In an interview, Hirst told BBC News Online: “The thing about 9/11 is that it’s kind of an artwork in its own right. It was wicked, but it was devised in this way for this kind of impact. It was devised visually.”

Describing the image of the hijacked planes crashing into the twin towers as “visually stunning”, he added: “You’ve got to hand it to them on some level because they’ve achieved something which nobody would have ever have thought possible, especially to a country as big as America.

“So on one level they kind of need congratulating, which a lot of people shy away from, which is a very dangerous thing.”



Tony Podesta owns entire collections of Damien Hirst pieces | NGA | OCT 24, 2016



Paint the Town: Final Collector’s View at the Podesta’s | WASHINGTON LIFE MAGAZINE | JUN 18, 2010

“I’ve been collecting since the early 80s,” said Tony, when asked about his start. “I worked for Ted Kennedy when he ran for president in 1980. The campaign wasn’t as successful as we had hoped, and rather quickly they cut everybody’s salary in half. And at the end of the campaign, the way the campaign stayed afloat was to get artists – like Warhol, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein – to make art for the campaign. They sold the art to keep the campaign afloat. And at the end of the campaign, they kept track of how much the other half of the salary was that we didn’t get and I walked out with a big tube of Warhols, Rauschenbergs and Lichtensteins! And that’s how I started collecting art. It was involuntary collecting!”



Inside Homes: Private Viewing | WASHINGTON LIFE MAGAZINE | JUN 5, 2015

Inside power lobbyist, philanthropist and contemporary art collector Tony Podesta’s Kalorama home.



Lobbyists Set to Fight Royalty Bill for Artists | NEW YORK TIMES | MAR 23, 2014

Lawyers for Sotheby’s auction house paid an unusual visit to a few lawmakers on Capitol Hill this month and brought along some high-powered lobbying muscle. They had come to complain about a new bill that even some supporters acknowledge faces a difficult road in this divided Congress: a proposal to give visual artists — or their estates — a cut of the profits when their work is resold at public auction.

Despite the long odds, Sotheby’s and Christie’s have spent about $1 million in the last couple of years to hire well-known legal and lobbying talent in Washington such as Paul D. Clement, the former solicitor general under President Obama, and the Podesta Group, run by the Democratic super-lobbyist Tony Podesta, whose brother, John D. Podesta, recently joined the Obama administration as a top aide.

“We’re taking it seriously, even though we don’t think it’s going to pass,” said Jane A. Levine, Sotheby’s director of worldwide compliance.



Brother of Hillary Clinton’s Top Campaign Aide Lobbied for Fracked Gas Export Terminal Co-Owned by Qatar | DESMOG BLOG | APR 30, 2015

Anthony “Tony” Podesta began lobbying in late 2013 on behalf of a company co-owned by ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum aiming to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the global market. Tony is the brother of John Podesta, former top climate change adviser to President Barack Obama and current top campaign aide for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid for president.

Qatar, the Persian Gulf country which shares a border with Saudi Arabia, is the top exporter of LNG in the world. It has also come under fire for human rights abuses and for maintaining one of the most long-standing dictatorships on the planet.

The Clinton Foundation, whose finances are currently under increased scrunity due to the looming release of the book “Clinton Cash,” took between $250,000-$500,000 from Qatar in 2014.



Paul Gauguin Painting Sells for Record $300 Million to Qatar Museums in Private Sale | ARTNET | FEB 5, 2015

A new record price for an artwork, nearly $300 million, may have been achieved with the sale of a Paul Gauguin canvas by a Swiss collector. The buyer is rumored to be the Qatar Museums.

The seller, Rudolf Staechelin, a retired Sotheby’s executive who now lives in Basel, confirmed the sale this afternoon to the New York Times, but declined to identify the buyer or disclose the price.

Sources tell the Times that Qatar Museums is the purchaser. Qatar is already home to the painting that set the previous record for most expensive artwork, Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players, purchased by its royal family in 2011 for a price said to have been $250 million. The late Qatari ruler Sheikh Saud Al-Thani was a prolific collector (see Qatar’s Sheikh Saud Died of Complications Related to Heart Condition and What Are The Top 10 Al-Thani Family Art Acquisitions?), and other Qatari buyers have made major art purchases in recent years. The country’s acquisitions allegedly include Cézanne’s La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue du Bosquet du Château Noir, offloaded by Detroit’s Edsel & Eleanor Ford House to the tune of $100 million in 2013 (see Secret $100 Million Cézanne Sale in Detroit).

The sale was arranged after a dispute with the local government over whether Staechelin’s collection could travel while the institution was closed; the loan contract stipulated that the work must remain on public view. “We are painfully reminded that permanent loans are still loans. The people of Basel do not own these, and they can be taken away at any moment,” said the museum in a statement bemoaning the work’s loss. Staechelin acquired the painting, along with the rest of his collection, from his grandfather and namesake, a Swiss merchant who collected during World War I and the following years

Staechelin told the Times he initiated the Gauguin sale “mainly because we got a good offer. The market is very high and who knows what it will be in 10 years. I always tried to keep as much together as I could, [but] over 90 percent of our assets are paintings hanging for free in the museum. It’s not a healthy financial risk distribution. . . . For me they are family history and art. But they are also security and investments.”



Distinguished Artists to Join Curators, Art Collectors and Museum Directors at the New York Times ‘Art For Tomorrow’ Conference | NEW YORK TIMES | JAN 20, 2016

Artist Marina Abramović, Art Basel global director Marc Spiegler, UNESCO’s Francesco Bandarin among diverse mix of art-world leaders to appear in Doha March 12-15



Qatar: The Shape of Tomorrow | BLOUINART | JUN 19, 2016

Doha: Plastic and ready-made, it’s a city built for Jeff Koons.  When I run into him in March at the elevator bank at the
 W Doha Hotel, it feels staged. House music plays at a tasteful volume for nine o’clock in the morning. Koons’s smile is cartoonish and his gray skinny tie impeccably knotted. A frequent guest of the Qatari royal family, the artist is in the desert peninsula’s capital to headline the New York Times Art for Tomorrow conference.

“I love the readymade because of the idea of acceptance,” Koons tells me, “that everything is in play and that everything is perfect in its own being.” It’s little wonder that he is attracted to Qatar.

“I’ve heard stories of an artist being in prison,” Koons told me, as we sat on white couches in the W. “My idea of participating and of art having a moral responsibility, I think, comes from my experience of growing up,” he said, “in that first you have a concept of self and of transcendence of the self, and then you become aware of your place within the community and your responsibility to the community, and that just gets played out on larger scales later in life, depending upon your desire for participation.”



Qatar’s oil boom created the world’s most extravagant art scene—and also led to its demise | QUARTZ | AUG 24, 2016

Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Naomi Campbell made their way through the VIP crowd, past the fleet of Bentleys, and toward the waiting helicopter.

Hirst—the English artist best known for his multi-million dollar sculpture of a shark floating in formaldehyde—was in town on official business. Qatar Museums (QM) had ponied up over $20 million to fund a retrospective of his work and commission a series of pieces. He had spent the last hour showing QM’s chairperson, Sheikha Mayassa (who is also the daughter of the Emir), around the exhibition, pointing out exactly how her country’s money had been spent. The other two were just tagging along, presumably. Besides, the after-party sounded promising: QM had organized a pop-up Prada shop in the middle of the desert, and guests were being ferried there via private helicopter.

As the rotor blades sprang to life and the unlikely trio was lifted into the sky, the South-Asian laborers working nearby stopped to watch the spectacle. They were being paid $11 a day to swing pickaxes in the desert sun and lay the groundwork for the new Qatar National Museum.

These purchases—perhaps destined to gather dust in a museum basement—nonetheless endeared Qatar to the international art market and provided the media with a compelling, feel-good narrative about the young princess who was helping transform the region via art and museums. That may have been true, but the reality of day-to-day life for the staff at QM was a series of temper tantrums, meltdowns, threats, and people running to the bathroom in tears. But I guess that’s to be expected when you throw a couple hundred expats into a 14-story tower in the desert, pair them up with local bureaucrats, and tell them to launch a series of ludicrous exhibitions and international conferences in a country where a single shipping form or budget request can take months to process.

Like all other aspects of Qatar society, life within the tower followed a very clear hierarchy based on a person’s passport, skin color, and surname. While Qatar isn’t as religiously conservative as neighboring Saudi Arabia, it’s also not that far removed. All Qataris are expected to wear their “national uniform” while in public (a black abaya for women, a white thobe for men). Workplaces pause for daily prayers, and fraternizing between members of the opposite sex is generally discouraged.