Christie's International chairman Edward J. Dolman is leaving the London-based auctioneer to join the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA). After a 27-year rise at Christie's, Dolman has been tapped to serve as executive director of the QMA, which currently oversees three museums in Doha, the Qatari capital.
Dolman will report to QMA chairperson and daughter of the Qatari emir, H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
"With the markets in good shape and sales so strong, it seemed right for me to consider something else," Dolman said in an interview with A.i.A. He had traveled to Qatar several times on behalf of Christie's and got to know the Sheikha and other top museum officials. "We had a good and strong relationship with them," said Dolman. "They felt it was time to increase investment in senior management. They first spoke with me [about a position] a couple months ago."
Doha's museums include the Museum of Islamic Art, which opened in 2008, designed by I.M. Pei; Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, which opened in 2010; and the Qatar National Museum, which is being renovated by Jean Nouvel and is scheduled to re-open in 2014.
Dolman is the second Christie's staffer to depart for the QMA, following contemporary art specialist Jean-Paul Engelen. He was recently spotted at the Art Basel fair, accompanying Sheikha Al Mayassa. These developments have stoked art world chatter that the Qatar government has targeted Christie's as a possible takeover target. This move would be unwelcome to rival Sotheby's, who would be boxed out of deals with one of this era's biggest art buyers.
Dolman joined Christie's at the age of 24. "I gave it a year," said Dolman. "I started out as a porter, knowing nothing about the business." He soon landed a job as a junior cataloger in the furniture department, moving on to a position as a specialist and later transitioning into management roles. Dolman will be spending one week a month in Doha and the rest of the time split between London and New York.
"My actual role will be working beside the Sheikha. I will be representing her and the board of trustees," he said. Any concerns about the current political tumult in the Middle East? "Some of the ideals I've heard expressed in terms of employing art and culture to build bridges seem more important now than ever before," said Dolman. "I'm very happy to be involved in that process."
Above: Edward Dolman; Below: Sheikha Al Mayassa.