Home > Archive >Sheikh Under "House Arrest"
Author:posted by jc
Sun, Apr 24th, 2005 10:19:31 PM
Topic: Sheikh Under "House Arrest"

The art world's biggest spender is 'placed under house arrest'
News Telegraph UK

Sheikh Saud Al Thani spent a decade outbidding all-comers in the auction rooms. Now he has been sacked by his own cousin, the ruler of Qatar, writes Chris Hastings

The world's biggest art collector, Sheikh Saud Al Thani of Qatar, who has spent hundreds of millions of pounds during the last decade buying some of the most important works, has been placed under house arrest after being abruptly removed as head of his country's national council for culture.

According to a report today,… Sheikh Saud, whose collections include millions of pounds' worth of British art, has been held incommunicado since the end of February on the orders of his cousin, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who has asked Qatari authorities to investigate his cousin's acquisitions.

News of his arrest has astonished the international art scene, where Sheikh Saud had a reputation for paying as much as 113 times the estimated price for items he particularly wanted. Apart from being a substantial private collector, Sheikh Saud had been given responsibility for using state funds to buy work for five new museums in Qatar, which has been trying to transform itself into the cultural capital of the Middle East.

British friends and London-based dealers who have worked with Sheikh Saud insisted that he was the victim of a palace coup. One British dealer who has worked with him extensively and asked not to be named told The Telegraph last night: "There are a lot of people in positions of power who don't like what he is trying to do."

In recent years Sheikh Saud, who has homes in London, Paris and Doha, the Qatari capital, has spent millions of pounds of his own money realising his passion for Fabergé objects, photography, Art Deco furniture, specimens of natural history and penny-farthings. In his capacity as head of Qatar's national council for culture, he has also travelled the world buying Islamic art for public buildings, including the five museums under construction in Doha.

Qatar, which is now one of the wealthiest states in the Arab world following the recent discovery of vast offshore oil and gas reserves, is determined to transform its cultural role in the Arab world. Sheikh Saud, who would sometimes spend tens of millions of pounds on a single item, was fêted by galleries and auction houses and given unrestricted access to the storerooms of the world's great collections. His success was founded on his ability to outbid rivals.

But his determination to buy the very best occasionally set him on collision course with authorities in Britain. Last year he bought the Clive of India treasure, a Mogul jade flask studded with rubies and emeralds, for £3 million at Christie's. The sale of the flask, which had been on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum since 1963, shocked the art scene in Britain.

The Government responded by deferring an export licence so that the V&A might launch a campaign to raise matching funds. The museum secured a £400,000 grant from the National Art Collections Fund and was preparing to submit an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund when Sheikh Saud informed the reviewing committee on the export of works of art that he was withdrawing his request for an export licence. The flask is understood still to be in Britain.

It was not the first time that the Government had been forced to respond to one of Sheikh Saud's purchases. In 2002 it tried unsuccessfully to prevent the export of The Jenkins Venus, a Roman marble statue from Newby Hall near Ripon, North Yorks. Sheikh Saud bought it for £7,926,650 - the highest price paid at auction for any antiquity. The statue was eventually shipped to Qatar.

At Christie's last April, agents for Sheikh Saud astonished the art world when he bought a Mogul agate-and-garnet fly whisk for £901,250, 113 times its £8,000 estimate.

A number of British dealers who have worked with the sheikh have been asked by the Qatari authorities to send records of any transaction. It is not clear, however, whether the request was directly related to an investigation …or whether it was part of routine accounting.

Married with three children, Sheikh Saud is passionate about wildlife and has turned his home at Al Wabra, outside Doha, into a conservation centre.

One acquaintance described the sheikh as "something out of a Ronald Firbank novel".

"He is effete, decadent and a compulsive collector," the friend said. "He once said to me, 'I feel ill when I am in a museum'. When I asked why, he said, 'I want to buy it all. That's why I feel ill' ."

Last month dealers in London and Paris who have sold work to the sheikh received a fax from the authorities in Qatar. It stated, without explanation: "Sheikh Saud Al Thani is no longer the chairman of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage of the state of Qatar. Accordingly, he no longer has the authority to engage or make commitments on [its behalf]." The statement was signed by the organisation's new chairman, Dr Mohammed Abdulraheem Kafoud.

Sheikh Saud could not be contacted at his London office last week and did not respond to an email sent to his family estate at Al Wabra. Qatar's National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage did not respond to a series of faxes sent by The Sunday Telegraph and no one at the Qatari Embassy in London was available for comment.

Author: written by C. Hastings posted by jc
Sun, Apr 24th, 2005 10:19:31 PM

(Ed. Note: This article appeared in this weekend's London Sunday Telegraph. Clearly the offical investigation into the financial dealings of certain English art dealers with Sheik Saud is continuing. We have been told to expect more information will be forthcoming soon.)

Diana's lover embroiled in Middle East art scandal
By Chris Hastings

Oliver Hoare, one of Britain's most successful art dealers and a lover of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, has become embroiled in the official inquiry into the financial dealings of Sheikh Saud Al Thani of Qatar, the world's biggest collector.

The Art Newspaper, the art world's most respected publication, will this week reveal that three invoices to Sheikh Saud, amounting to more than £20 million and issued by one of Mr Hoare's companies, are being examined by investigators in the Qatari capital Doha.

Sheikh Saud, a cousin of the Emir of Qatar who has spent many tens of millions of pounds in the London art market, was placed under house arrest last month, following allegations over the misuse of public funds.

Apart from being a private collector, Sheikh Saud was responsible for using state funds to buy work for five new museums in Doha. Prior to his arrest, he was removed as head of the national council for culture.

According to The Art Newspaper, Qatari investigators are looking at three invoices issued by Oliver Hoare Limited to Sheikh Saud in 2002. Officials want to know why and how Mr Hoare was successful in achieving what the paper describes as "extraordinary mark-ups" of up to 1,100 per cent when selling art to the Sheikh - garnering sums far exceeding the price the items had only recently reached at auction.

One of the invoices, all of which are dated August 6, 2002, and are addressed to Sheikh Saud al-Thani, PO Box 7863, Doha, Qatar, shows that Mr Hoare's company charged £5.5 million for a 17th century jade pendant made for the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The pendant, designed to cure its wearer of "palpitations", fetched £454,500 when sold by Sotheby's eight months earlier.

A second invoice shows that Mr Hoare charged £7.5 million for an 18th century diamond, emerald and enamel turban ornament which sold for £1.3 million when it was auctioned at Christie's 11 months earlier.

He also charged $12 million (£6.2 million) for a 217-carat Mughal carved emerald with invocations and with poppies, dated 1695, which was sold at the same Christie's auction for £1.5 million.

It is not unusual for objects to increase in value and dealers can quite legally charge the best price they can get. The Art Newspaper, however, suggests that the mark-up for the three items, all of which are now in the collections of the Qatari state, appear to be unprecendently large. It quotes an anonymous German museum official as saying that the insurance value of the Shah Jahan pendant and the Mughal emerald, both of which have been on display in Frankfurt recently, amounted to a total of "only a few million dollars - well below what was invoiced for them."

Mr Hoare, 59, a married father of three, is one of London's most colourful and successful dealers. He told The Art Newspaper last week that he was not the buyer of the three items when they were originally put up for auction. He declined to comment on the invoices or the inquiry when contacted by The Telegraph on Friday. Friends say he has done nothing wrong. One said: "What concerns Oliver most is that the elements hostile to Sheikh Saud are feeding information for the purpose of damaging him and others and that they are using the press to do so."

The fact that Mr Hoare has been dragged into the inquiry, first disclosed by The Sunday Telegraph last month, will alarm the London art market. Mr Hoare, a specialist on Islamic art, travelled frequently to Qatar to visit Sheikh Saud, who was reputed to be his biggest client. Other London dealers were keen to do business with the Sheikh, who once paid more than 113 times the estimate for an item he wanted. The Telegraph has established that dealers would pay to secure an introduction to the Sheikh.

Mr Hoare's 29-year marriage to the French oil heiress Diane de Waldner has survived despite his being romantically linked to a series of women. His wife's mother, the Baroness Louise de Waldner, was a close friend of the Queen Mother and the Prince of Wales spent holidays at the family seat in Avignon. Mr Hoare's affair with Diana sparked a police investigation in 1994.

Author: jc
Sat, Mar 19th, 2005 08:52:08 PM

The latest news out of Qatar alleges Sheikh Saud has been removed from his villa and imprisioned in a state facility. More to come stay tuned

Author: written by G. Adams posted by jc
Sun, Mar 13th, 2005 11:22:26 AM

World’s biggest art collector arrested in Qatar
By Georgina Adam

LONDON. The Art Newspaper can reveal that the world’s biggest art collector, Sheikh Saud Al-Thani of Qatar, has been arrested and is now under investigation for alleged misuse of public funds.

The Art Newspaper understands that Sheikh Saud, who is a second cousin of the ruling Emir of Qatar, is currently under house arrest in the Qatari capital Doha. He was detained at the end of February.

As Chairman of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage (NCCAH), Sheikh Saud, 38, has been responsible for the purchase of art on behalf of the Emir for the last eight years. His acquisitions are intended to go on display in five museums currently under construction in Doha as part of an ambitious plan to transform the tiny Gulf State into a major cultural centre.

During this period, Sheikh Saud has also purchased art for his own personal collection.

Qatar, with its vast reserves of oil and gas, is one of the richest countries in the Arab region. Consequently Sheikh Saud’s budget for the purchase of art has appeared to be almost limitless. He has been prepared to pay colossal sums for acquisitions in several fields from Islamic art and Egyptian antiquities to Fabergé objects, photography, art deco furniture, natural history specimens and books, vintage cars, classical sculptures, and objets d’art, to name just a few. Working through European dealers, he has bought entire collections outright.

The Sheikh’s willingness to spend disproportionate amounts of money for certain objects has astonished the art world. At a sale of Islamic art at Christie’s in London last April The Art Newspaper identified an agent working for Sheikh Saud as the buyer of a Mughal agate and garnet fly-whisk handle formerly belonging to Clive of India for £901,250, 113 times its high estimate of £8,000. At the same sale we also identified the Sheikh as the buyer of two unusual Safavid tiles, both with low estimates of only £1,000, for £31,070 and £94,850 respectively. Sheikh Saud also purchased numerous lots at Sotheby’s and Bonham’s in that week’s Islamic sales.

The Art Newspaper identified several agents bidding for Sheikh Saud at all these auctions. We understand that on one occasion the Sheikh appeared to be bidding against another potential buyer with the same surname.

Last month, dealers in London and Paris who have sold art to Sheikh Saud received a fax, dated 16 February, from the NCCAH in Qatar. It states: “Sheikh Saud Mohammed Al-Thani is no longer the Chairman of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage of the State of Qatar. Accordingly, he no longer has the authority to engage or make commitments on [its] behalf.”

“Please update your records and ensure that this advice is disseminated to all concerned parties with[in] your organisation. The NCCAH will not be held responsible for any commitments made by Sheikh Saud Mohammed Al-Thani after this advice has been issued.”

The statement is signed by the NCCAH’s new chairman, Dr Mohammed Abdulraheem Kafoud, a former education minister.

Last week, The Art Newspaper received a letter from the NCCAH informing us of the nomination of Dr Kafoud as the new president of the NCCAH. The brief statement does not mention Sheikh Saud. The Art Newspaper was unable to reach Dr Kafoud for comment.

Sheikh Saud’s London office, the Islamic Art Society, was closed on 7 February. It has now gone into voluntary liquidation.

According to reports published in Qatari newspapers, the Qatari Audit Bureau is now investigating a “serious misuse and misappropriation of public funds.” The Arabic language Al Sharq reported that a “senior government body” has spent one billion Qatari Riyals ($275 million) on one of its activities. One official was under preventative detention and two other people involved are out of the country, the newspaper said. An article in the English language Gulf Times named this body as the NCCAH.

Speaking to The Art Newspaper on condition of anonymity, one dealer who has worked with the Sheikh said that the NCCAH had asked for copies of all invoices he had ever sent to Sheikh Saud.

While several curators working for the Sheikh in Qatar did not answer their telephones or reply to emails, Dr Oliver Watson, chief curator of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), told The Art Newspaper that “the building projects are going ahead as planned.” He would not comment on the removal of Sheikh Saud, however, he has resigned and is shortly to become the new Keeper of Eastern Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Competing with Britain
The Sheikh’s determination to purchase the very best objects for the new Qatari museums has, on occasions, set him on a collision course with Britain.

In June 2002, the Sheikh bought the so-called Jenkins Venus, a Roman marble statue from Newby Hall, Yorkshire, for £7,926,650 at Christie’s in London—the highest price ever paid at auction for any antiquity. The work had stood in the sculpture gallery at Newby Hall in a niche designed for it by the architect Robert Adam.

The British government deferred an export licence and “starred” the sculpture to emphasise its importance but no UK buyer was able to raise the recommended price and the statue was eventually granted an export licence and duly taken to Qatar.

In April 2004, Sheikh Saud bought the Clive of India treasure, a jewelled Mughal jade flask studded with rubies and emeralds, for £3 million at a Christie’s sale. This had been on show at the V&A since 1963 until it was put up for auction by the Clive family.

Following the sale the British government once again deferred an export licence and the V&A launched a campaign to raise matching funds. The institution secured a £400,000 grant from the National Art Collections Fund and was preparing to submit an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund when the Sheikh informed the Export Reviewing Committee that he was withdrawing his request for an export licence. This means that the Sheikh would have had to keep the flask in the UK. The incident led to concerns that the UK licensing system is not working and needs to be reformed.

Some of the Sheikh’s purchases may have upset members of his ruling Al-Thani family, particularly the Jenkins Venus, which is a sensual, female nude. “My family thinks I am mad [because of my art purchases],” Sheikh Saud admitted to The Art Newspaper during an exclusive interview last year at his family estate outside Doha.

As well as spending vast sums of money on art, Sheikh Saud has been the driving force behind the ambitious museum building programme. It was the Sheikh who persuaded leading international architects such as Santiago Calatrava and Arata Isozaki to design museums in Qatar. He even managed to convince the retired Chinese American architect I.M. Pei to embark on a final project, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

A palace coup?
While observers of the art market have long been astonished and somewhat puzzled by the huge prices Sheikh Saud has been prepared to pay at auction, it is possible that the investigation into his spending may amount to no more than a palace coup. Power struggles are common in this part of the world and Sheikh Saud has been sidelined before. His spending is known to have been deeply disapproved of in some Qatari circles.

“I believe Sheikh Saud is the victim of a palace plot,” said a dealer who has sold to the Sheikh. “Sheikh Saud has the energy and resources to drive all these museum projects forward, he has an amazing eye and great energy, and I can’t see who else can replace him. What he has achieved in eight years is extraordinary. I don’t think all the projects can go ahead now, without him.”

One small indication that the new NCCAH team will continue the projects spearheaded by the Sheikh comes from the Louvre Museum in Paris. The institution has confirmed that an exhibition, scheduled for 2006, of 150 Islamic works to be sent on loan from the MIA collection in Qatar, will go ahead as planned. It will be seen in Paris both at the Louvre and the Guimet Museum.

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