Secret of Qatar’s Billion-Dollar Modern and Contemporary Art Purchases Revealed

Welcome to Art Mill.

Have you ever wondered what Qatar is doing with the billions of dollars of modern and contemporary art it purchased over the past decade?

The list includes a $300 million Gauguin, a $250 million Cezanne, and a $300 million group of Rothkos—not to mention countless other headline-grabbing art sales where members of the Al-Thani family are rumored to be buyers (see Member of Qatar’s Al-Thani Family Revealed as Buyer of Record-Breaking $179 Million Picasso).

We might know the answer: Qatar is planning a new modern and contemporary art museum on the waterfront in Doha, called the Art Mill, that comprises nearly one million square feet and is being touted as “one of the largest and most forward looking art galleries” by the architectural press (see What Are The Top 10 Al-Thani Acquisitions?)


Art Mill, Doha Bay.
©Qatar Museums and Malcolm Reading Consultants.

On June 1, the QMA announced an international design competition for an architect to design the mill. “The museum will require an accomplished design with architectural integrity and presence, for the spectacular and historic waterfront site reserved for the project,” according to a press release.

The selection process is open to practising architects with at least seven years experience.

When completed, the Art Mill will be part of Doha’s sequence of museums, including I.M. Pei’s Musem of Islamic Art, and Jean Nouvel’s forthcoming National Museum of Qatar.


Art Mill, internal view.
©Qatar Museums and Malcolm Reading Consultants.

London-based Reading Associates, which is running the competition, also oversaw the competition for the Guggenheim Helsinki.

According to the QMA, the proposed site for the Art Mill was a originally a key node within the Arabian Gulf Port, essential for the import of grain. It is presently occupied by Qatar Flour Mills, which sits to the east of of the Museum of Islamic Art. The mill operation will move to newly built facilities.

The buildings boast “voluminous spaces and a rhythmic, patterned promenade of vertical silos,” according to the release. “Re-using and adapting these structures will be integral to the product,” accord to the QMA.


Aerial view of Art Mill.
©Qatar Museums and Malcolm Reading Consultants.

The extensive outside space is expected to be integrated into the design, providing opportunities for cross-programming and public engagement. The site offers panoramic views of the bay and the ever-growing skyline of Doha’s financial district.

A Reading spokesperson said the competition launched on June 1, and the closing date for entries is 26 June. They expect to announce the longlist of 20 international architects in July, and then a shortlist of five in October, with a winner announced in early 2016.

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