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FEATURE SHEIKH HAMAD AL THANI

8 Encoignure by Martin Carlin (c. 1730–85), displayed in Sheikh Hamad’s Doha palace. The piece was originally in the collection of the Marquis de Marigny, brother of Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour 9 Vase, Sèvres, 1868–69 Soft-paste porcelain, Ormolu-mounted with pale pink ground, ht 39.5cm 10 A selection of the Sheikh’s collection of Delft ceramics, displayed in the rotunda of his private palace

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Western Dress (1929; Fig. 3). The Sheikh recalls first hearing about the Maharaja, ‘who was an exquisite person with superlative taste and a great patron of the arts with an avant-garde vision. He was a man of elegance and a model for any collector.’ Next to this is a painting of Mary Magdalen attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, acquired from a private collection (it has been out of public view since the 1950s). The Sheikh interjects, ‘I bought it before The Da Vinci Code was written! If there is one thing I could not live without, it is this painting.’ In the rotunda that sits at the centre of the Pavilion, the Sheikh has again juxtaposed

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objects – here, his prominently displayed collection of Delft ceramics (Fig. 10) contrasts with the courtly, ormolu-mounted Chinese porcelain that adorns each room of the house. ‘I love Delft!’ he enthuses. ‘It is rustic, but I love it. It is a departure from my usual taste and offers a refreshing counterpoint to the rest of the collection.’ A contrast of a different kind awaits visitors to a ground-floor gallery, where the prince’s childhood rocking-horse creates a surreal contrast with a 19th-century harp (Fig. 6). ‘It is the most beautiful and refined instrument – I only wish I could play it!’

Of grand proportions, Rayyan Pavilion nevertheless has an intimate feel to it, with a symmetrical arrangement of rooms providing the ideal backdrop for the collection. ‘The sketches and designs for the house are by my own hand, as are the interiors, which I did myself very quickly, without the help of a decorator,’ says the prince, who enlisted a sympathetic architect to translate his vision into a functional building, completing the structure in 2006. Although still a young man, Sheikh Hamad has always gone for architecture of a grand, classic style. ‘I only feature sheikh hamad al thani feel comfortable surrounded by things from the past,’ he explains. ‘In addition, as a family we have always led a formal life, with responsibilities and duties; the structure of a classic house reflects the way that we live.’

Even so, as a cosmopolitan man rich in both resources and aesthetic awareness,

Sheikh Hamad has by no means shied away from contemporary art: ‘Pop and contemporary art moves me and has a strong visual impact, but I feel it is better suited to a gallery or office, not for a home. To live in a white cube with contemporary art – well, one may as well move into a gallery at MOMA!’

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Accordingly, part of the Sheikh’s collection is housed in his stylish new Doha offices, designed by Jacques Garcia (interviewed in Apollo’s September 2010 issue) and hung with works by Jean-Michel Basquiat (the first contemporary artist whose work he acquired), Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons,

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