British photographic history

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Death of Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani, aged 48 (UPDATED)

The death has been reported of Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al-Thani, aged 48, in London. Although not a name that will now be familiar to many photography collectors, for a period in the late 1990s/2000s Sheikh Saud was the largest buyer of photography - photographs and cameras - in the world, securing a number of important photography collections for himself and for the state of Qatar at auction and from dealers across the UK, Europe and North America.

The blurring of lines between the two and allegations of false accounting ultimately brought and end to his spending and formal role but he later resumed his position as a personal buyer. He had a connoisseur’s eye across wide range of art forms, of which photography was just a part and other interests that included wildlife conservation.  


Much of Sheikh Saud's photography collection eventually became part of the the Qatar Museum Authority's proposed photography museum, later renamed International Media Museum, plans for which were scrapped earlier this year - see:

UPDATE: Personal note: I was a Christie's photography specialist when Sheikh Saud emerged on to the scene as a collector of photography.On one memorable occasion he purchased an entire camera sale, bar one lot, much to the chagrin of those present in the auction room who delighted in bidding against him, knowing that he would not stop until he had secured the lot. On another occasion he invited me to a meeting at his Portman Square apartment ostensibly to offer me job in Qatar as a curator of his collection. The whole experience was surreal. Dealers were lining up to offer him all sorts of works of art which he would look at, and then dismiss or indicate an interest with a wave of a hand. We shared a short conversation before I was passed to an aide. The promised job failed to materialise.   

In retrospect, Sheikh Saud could have used some experienced advice on the auction process and how to manage dealers, but I sense, that as money was essentially no object, he knew what was happening and that was part of the game for him. And there was no question that he had a very good eye for traditional works of art, for high-end photography, and to recognise when a photography collection was of sufficient importance to be added to his portfolio.

The Qatar Museums Authority collections are testament to his abilities and it is disappointing that the photography collection that he largely built up is, for now, consigned to a secure, climate controlled warehouse in the desert, with plans for a photography museum now scrapped (see link above) as other priorities for the QMA have arisen. MP

Read more about Sheikh Saud here:

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