Qatar's Royal Patronage of the Arts: Glittering but Empty

Qatar’s royal family is making Doha, the country’s capital, into an international art hub for renowned artists from all over the world as it sets the stage for the World Cup in 2022, but local artists are being weeded out in the process.

“Investing millions in art venues and art work isn’t enough,” said Ninar Esber, a Lebanese artist represented by the Anne de Villepoix Gallery of Paris. What is missing, she said, are the basics, like freedom of speech. The art scene “is an empty golden shell,” she said, adding, “It glitters from the outside, but from the inside, it is empty.”

“Maybe with time things will change,” she said. “I hope so, but I don’t believe that art changes societies. Laws and secular governments do.”

Critics of the Qatar royal family say it is behaving as a facilitator of the international art scene while at the same time using it for self-promotion. And rather than letting the art scene in Qatar grow naturally according to the needs of its people to express themselves, these observers say, the country is handpicking artists who are politically neutral.

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