The Collectors: Mohammed Al-Thani
The founder of New York’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Art has a personal collection that incorporates contemporary, Arab, and Islamic Art
Although he owns pieces by a global array of talents—Etel Adnan, Sérgio Sister, Per Kirkeby, and Kathleen Ryan, among them—Qatari-born Mohammed Al-Thani has a love of art that goes far beyond just collecting for himself. He’s made it a personal mission to bring his region’s creative output to New York City through the Institute of Arab and Islamic Art.
Launched in 2017 and opened in its permanent home on Christopher Street in 2022, the nonprofit presents rotating exhibitions that concentrate on makers underrecognized in the Western world, such as Behjat Sadr, Rummana Hussain, and Huguette Caland.
Personal story: “Because the institute is more focused on one region, I’m not able to showcase a lot of the international artists I admire, but I’m able to build a different narrative through my personal collection. I love being able to do that through art, objects, and even dinnerware.”
Show-and-tell: “I come from an area that’s deeply rooted in Islamic geometry, so I like things to be very ordered. One lesson that someone learns from collecting is that at some point, your collection makes decisions for you. Because if you want everything to be symmetrical, it’s not going to happen.”
Living with art: “I can get lost in my Mara De Luca painting, which is a minimalist abstraction. It’s like looking at a horizon. It feels endless.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2023 Late Fall Issue under the headline “The Collectors.” Subscribe to the magazine.