Designed by the celebrated American-Chinese architect, I. M Pei, and built in 2008 on a man-made island approached by a broad walkway edged with palm trees, the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar is visually stunning. A wonderfully cool and airy space, it is an advertisement for the restrained and distinctive beauties of Islamic art. As you walk through the spacious entrance you are seduced by the shadowed light and calm atmosphere. In that sense, the Qatar Museum is of a type with many contemporary art galleries and museums across the world. Exhibition venues for art and artefacts have in our own lifetimes gradually become new kinds of public spaces, ones in which the buildings are as important as their holdings and in which reflecting the world is more important than collecting it.

Thousands of miles away, at the southern end of the Inca trail in the province of Salta in north-west Argentina, red raw earth roads twist and climb alongside broad alluvial river beds. The gloriously empty landscape is interrupted only by isolated villages and the continuing presence of an ancient indigenous culture. Set amongst them is a rare sight in these parts, a gallery building with adobe brick walls melding into the surrounding hills. After an excellent steak lunch in the vineyard restaurant and a sampling of the superb Bodega Colomé wines, a short pathway leads to the art gallery. Here the building is the artwork. There are no exhibits. The American artist James Turrell has been thoroughly indulged by the Hess Family – who own the vineyard – and allowed to use the bespoke building for a set of light installations with a skylight above. Walking through the installations (shaped by carefully placed apertures in the walls and roof) the spectator becomes a participant in the spectrum of light which alters as the day proceeds and as night follows. The James Turrell Museum is the epitome of a contemporary art museum in which the building and its effects are central.