'We will not hesitate' says Qatar Sheikh on possible Christie's buy

In this week's Paul Fraser Collectibles newsletter, we jokingly included the headline "Christie's invades Dubai" in reference to the auction house's ongoing success in the Middle East.

But it now turns out that the truth could be the other way round, as Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of the royal family of Qatar, rather than Dubai, has reportedly set his sights on Christie's.

The 58-year-old the Emir (ruler) of Qatar has apparently spoken of his interest in Christie's to the press. His previous winning bids at the auction house include $12.7m for a circa 1st-2nd century marble statue, The Jenkins Venus, in 2002.

"We are investing everywhere, even in Harrods," the Emir told the Financial Times newspaper. About Christie's, he said: "It depends on the opportunity, if a good one presents itself we will not hesitate."

At this point, any talk of the Sheikh's desire to acquire Christie's is mere speculation. Although the deal would certainly be a turn for the books, considering that Christie's was the first international auction house to set up a permanent base in the Middle East back in 2005.

The Emir of Qatar and George W Bush, during the
latter's Presidency

Christie's inaugural art sale in Dubai the following year was a resounding success, recording total sales of $8.5m and showcasing the likes of Warhol and Picasso alongside Arabian, Indian and Iranian artists. Since then many of its competitors, including Bonhams, have also expanded to the Gulf.

And Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani certainly wouldn't be the first Arabian Royal to venture over to the UK. Premiership Football Club Manchester City is now owned by Abu Dhabi Emir Sheikh Mansour, while exiled Princess Alia al-Senussi of Libya is on the committee for Middle Eastern art at London's Tate Modern.

However, although Qatar is a relatively liberal-minded region, the thought of its ruler owning Christie's has its controversies - not least the differences and contrasts in views on art held by Arabs and Westerners.

The Emir also attracted press attention after allegedly imprisoning one of his daughters in Qatar following her secret wedding with an Egyptian lover.

For now, ongoing speculation that the Emir of Qatar wants to buy Christie's should be taken with a pinch of salt - but is testament to Christie's ongoing success in bridging the Arab art markets with the rest of the world.


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