Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
29 March 2010

Gulf wars

Jean Nouvel reveals plans for a new museum in Doha.

By Jonathan Derbyshire

There’s been a cultural arms race in the Persian Gulf for some time now. In Abu Dhabi, Frank Gehry is hard at work trying to do for the emirate what he did for Bilbao, with a 450,000-square-foot outpost of New York’s Guggenheim Museum on Saadiyat Island. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi’s neighbour and rival Dubai recently hosted the fourth Art Dubai, the UAE’s smaller-scale answer to the annual Art Basel Miami Beach.

Coming up quickly on the rails, however, is the Emirate of Qatar, awash with new wealth generated by its massive reserves of natural gas. In November, I blogged from the first ever Doha Tribeca Film Festival, the Middle Eastern iteration of Robert de Niro’s Manhattan-based cinematic shindig. The festival’s opening and closing ceremonies took place at what is currently the cultural jewel of the Qatari capital, the Museum of Islamic Art, designed by the architect I M Pei.

The MIA’s pre-eminence is now in danger of being usurped, however, with the announcement by the French architect Jean Nouvel of his plans for a new National Museum of Qatar, to be completed by 2013. Nouvel says the building will mimic the shape of the roses found in the desert, a nod to Doha’s past as a fishing village.

Nouvel is an interesting choice for this project, for the building with which he made his name — and which is, to my mind, still his finest achivement — was the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. The most striking feature of the building is its glass courtyard wall, which uses metal, adjustable apertures cut in shapes that allude to the forms of Islamic decorative art to control the amount of light the building lets in.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy