View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

U.A.E. Scores a Coup in the World of Art

An agreement was signed on Tuesday by France and the U.A.E. to open a branch of the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi. It will be housed in a discus-shaped building on the capital’s Saadiyat Island.

While the Paris based Louvre has loaned paintings and sent exhibitions to places like Atlanta and South Korea, the establishment of a satellite hails a new development in the museum that has existed since the twelfth century.

The news leaked in January set off a fracas in the French nation. Politicians forging the deal (estimated to be worth US$650 million) were criticised for selling their nation’s soul. French citizens fear that it will weaken the prominence of the Louvre. The 2006 record of 8.3 million visitors makes it the most visited culture and art museum in the world and the most visited site in Paris.

Other critics are attacking the use of art for economic and strategic purposes and have stated their abhorrence at the Guggenheim trend of establishing franchises around the world which bear the valuable name.

This is being seen as yet another coup for the U.A.E. and represents a strong move to strengthen its stakes in the realm of culture, as well as in economics and tourism.

An early rumour claimed that the Abu Dhabi affiliate would refuse to display nudes or paintings of non-Islamic religious paintings but the U.A.E. government was swift to state that no restrictions were being placed on artwork that it would be lent. Carte blanche.

With many virtual art museums, historical and religious sites being blocked, due to their “content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the U.A.E.”, it will be fascinating to see how open the ‘Desert Louvre’ will be to the French selection and how many of the Parisian paintings get through the filters unscathed.

Geoff Pound

Image: Outside the Louvre, Paris.