World’s biggest art collector is buying again at TEFAF after legal scandal

Sheikh Saud Al-Thani of Qatar has now been pardoned



Sheikh Saud Al-Thani of Qatar, who was the world’s biggest art buyer before he was placed under house arrest for allegedly misappropriating over $400m of State funds (The Art Newspaper, April 2005. p1), was seen purchasing several works at The European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf) last month, according to several sources. Sporting a distinctive “rock star” look with tiny glasses, long gelled hair and a floor-length coat, he attended the press preview (the Al-Thani family owns Al Jazeera which is based in Doha), and was spotted reserving antiquities and other items at a number of dealers’ stands.

According to a reliable source, Sheikh Saud (who is the cousin of the ruling Emir of Qatar) has been pardoned and some of the works of art he accumulated over the years have been returned to him. The others have been taken under State control. It is understood that those previously destined for museums which are now not being built may be quietly sold off.

Sheikh Saud was previously chairman of the Qatari National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage and in that capacity spent millions of dollars in an eight-year buying spree for five museums that Qatar was intending to build. However, while the Museum of Islamic Art is nearing completion and is scheduled to open at the end of this year, others have been cancelled or put on hold, so many of the collections—which cover a wide range of specialities including photography, Egyptian antiquities, natural history books and vintage bicycles—now have nowhere to be shown.

o For a review of the Maastricht fair, p62

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘World’s biggest art collector is buying again'