Drawn To doha
Tipu Sultan had Napoleon as his ally—and the Duke of Wellington as his implacable enemy. You might expect to find an exhibition devoted to his turbulent times in India, or even, at a pinch, in Paris or London. But not in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha. It is here, however, that the Tiger of Mysore, as he was known, is celebrated in a beautiful new display of rare 18th
Indian paintings. There are few countries that have poured such a huge sum of money into art (some say around £700 million a year) as Qatar has, through its Museums Authority (QMA). Its investments range from the peerless beauty of IM Pei’s Museum of Islamic Art to the drama of a Richard Serra sculpture work called East-West/ West-East, deep in the desert of the Brouq Nature Reserve. The latter is built to oxidise in the heat and salt and sandstorms of its environs.
Even the new US$17-billion airport has been turned into a giant art space, where travellers will encounter works by Damien Hirst, and Urs Fischer’s giant yellow Lamp Bear— a monolithic, dystopian Pudsey. No wonder Sheikha Al-Mayassa, the chair of the QMA, was recently voted the most important person in the art world today.
Everything in Qatar is designed on a grandiose scale. The hotels are exceptionally smart, whether you go for the urban comforts of the Four Seasons, or the resort charms of Sharq Village, with its many swimming pools and superb spa—a work of art in itself. The Damien Hirst exhibition in Doha included pieces that never made it into his Tate Britain show, such as For Heaven’s Sake, the diamond-covered skull of a child; the entire giant exhibition hall, Al Riwaq, was papered in polka dots for the occasion. And the most exciting new building here, rising like a mirage by the Arabian Sea, is Jean Nouvel’s poetic National Museum of Qatar, a desert rose springing to life and set to open in 2016. Contact: Four Seasons Hotel, Doha, Qatar; tel: +974 4494 8888; www.fourseasons.com. Sharq Village & Spa; tel: +974 4425 6666; www.ritzcarlton.com.