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New Emir for Qatar

A peaceful handover of power in the energy-rich Gulf state—the world’s biggest buyer of art—leads insiders to expect little impact on cultural policy

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is the new emir of Qatar. Photo: Reuters

Today’s confirmation that Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar since 1995, is handing power over to his 33-year-old son, the crown prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has led to speculation over the impact this could have on the art market. As The Art Newspaper revealed last year, the small but energy-rich Gulf state is the world’s biggest buyer in the art market by value.

The reasons for Sheikh Hamad’s abdication have not been spelled out, other than his statement that “the time has come to open a new page in the journey”. The transition, expected to take immediate effect, is a peaceful one and—say art world insiders—unlikely to spark any dramatic change in cultural policy. The new leader is the son of Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser Al-Misned, the second of Sheikh Hamad’s three wives and the high-profile chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. She was behind the creation of Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Contemporary Art, which opened in 2010. This museum is overseen by the Qatar Museums Authority, which is chaired by Sheikh Hamad and Sheikha Moza’s daughter—and the new Emir’s sister—Sheika Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

Sheikh Tamin, who was educated at Harrow and Sherborne schools in England and graduated form the Sandhurst military academy, is also head of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee in charge of preparing the state to host the 2022’s football World Cup.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (left), the emir of Qatar since 1995, abdicated in favour of his son, the crown prince. Photo: Getty
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