Why the Abu Dhabi Louvre is a big French deal
November 11 marks an important day for all art and culture lovers in the UAE and the Arab world.
What is so special about November 11 this year?
Blame the global financial crisis and the slump in oil prices for five-years delaying the original launch date of Abu Dhabi Louvre, but it will finally open its doors on November 11.
Why is this an important event?
At the crossroad of civilisations
The museum is one of the four total planned to open in Saadiyat Island, but the first to open with immense significance to the region, as it has a globally recognized cultural name among our midst, which will seek to preserve not only history, but also Arab heritage, including Quranic manuscripts, tent making, dhow building, as well as a children’s museum.
This museum is not, in any way, a copy of the French Louvre. It represents an individual institution that provides its own interpretation of a universal museum that reflects its era and the local traditions of the country in which it lies.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is considered as a centre for civilizations and cultures. It represents a beacon of openness, tolerance, unity, acceptance and connectivity.
As for the French, they are greatly interested in this venture, as they have a vested interest in it, with an expected visit by French dignitaries to the capital, including French President Emmanuel Macron.
The French connection
To begin with, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a massive structure, 97,000 sqm facility designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.
Nouvel was inspired by low-lying Arab settlements and designed a ‘museum city’ in the sea with its contrasting series of 55 white buildings.
UAE official media WAM announced that, on the official opening ceremony on November 8, Macron would bring many officials including French Minister of Culture Francoise Nyssen, who said that the Louvre Abu Dhabi marked a milestone in the development of the cooperation between the UAE and France.
Back in 2007, the UAE and France agreed that the name Louvre would be loaned to the Emirate for 30 years and six months, and the Abu Dhabi museum would host temporary exhibitions for 15 years and get loaned artwork for 10 years.
If you’re wondering how this works, everything comes at a price. So what was the price incurred?
The price for rights
The thirty-year agreement, which will witness the construction of the Abu Dhabi Louvre, was in exchange for $1.3 billion to the French, just for these rights alone. The rights for the name itself cost $525 million, while the loans for artwork over the mentioned periods added a $.75bn price tag.
Construction costs were anywhere between $100m and $125m, but future works, which are part of Tourism Development and Investment Company’s $27bn tourist and cultural development for Saadiyat Island, will see Guggenheim Museum and the Zayed National Museum also be built.
Abu Dhabi is also seeking to develop projects of global significance with educational branches of the Sorbonne, and New York universities as well as medical services providers Cleveland Clinic.
Which artworks will be displayed?
More than 300 famous works, which are on loan from 13 leading French institutions including the Orsay Museum and Centre Pompidou, will showcase among others pieces by Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh.
The museum has collected more than 600 artworks to date, including Ottoman daggers, Hindu figurines and works by French painter Edouard Manet.