Sheikha Al Mayassa: 'Art is very powerful because it has no boundaries'

Story highlights

  • Qatar Museums Sheikha Al Mayassa is one of the most influential women in art
  • She's rumored to have a purchasing budget of $1 billion a year
  • She considers the exhibitions she commissions an 'informal way of education' for locals and tourists

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(CNN)With a rumored annual purchasing budget of $1 billion, Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is one of the most powerful women in the art world -- and one of the most secretive.

The Qatari royal is consistently reticent to discuss her personal collection and acquisitions on behalf of the State of Qatar, ("We could have bought the works that you think we've bought, we could have not bought it," she says when pressed on the subject), and rarely does interviews.
    In fact, this interview with CNN Style is her first on-camera interview in two years.

    Art from an outsider

    Largely, Sheikha Al Mayassa's work speaks for itself. As chair chairperson of Qatar Museums, she's brought the world's leading contemporary artists -- including Damien Hirst, Takashi Murakami and Richard Serra -- to the region, and she's thought to have overseen Qatar's $300-million purchase of Paul Gaugin's "When Will You Marry," the most expensive painting ever sold, in 2015.
    In March 2016, she inaugurated What About the Art? Contemporary Art from China, a new exhibition at Gallery Al Riwaq curated by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. These international exhibitions offer what Sheikha Al Mayassa calls an "informal way of education" that exposes locals and tourists alike to new ways of thinking.
    "Art is very powerful because it has no boundaries and you don't need to belong to any country or religion or social class," she says. "It brings people from all walks of life together to talk about an idea."
    In the video above, her first on-screen interview in two years, Sheikha Al Mayassa explains the importance of art in Islamic culture, and why the art world is more international than ever.