Abu Dhabi has announced the creation of a body comprising some of France’s leading cultural figures to oversee the development of a satellite Louvre musuem in the wealthy Gulf emirate. The French Museums agency will help develop the branch of the famed cultural icon on an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s tourism authority said.
Under the 30-year agreement, the government of Abu Dhabi will pay €400 million (Rs2,216 crore) just for the Louvre brand name. Representatives from the Pompidou Centre, the Orsay Museum and the National Library of France are part of the new agency, the statement said.
“The French Museums agency comprises some of the finest minds in the French cultural arena,” Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoun al-Nahayan, head of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, said. Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, leading financier and member of the French Academy of Fine Arts, is chairing the new agency. The Louvre in the Gulf project has sparked bitter controversy in France where some 4,650 people—among them dozens of museum directors, curators and art historians—have signed a petition in protest. Critics accuse the Louvre of “selling its soul” by loaning out its prized collections overseas, and dismiss the Abu Dhabi project as a gimmick that will only deprive the Louvre’s 7.3 million annual visitors in Paris.
Construction of the 260,000 sq. ft gallery, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, will start later this year and cost €83 million. The government of Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest of the UAE’s seven members, will foot the bill. The new agency will “supply expertise in the fields of restoration, curatorship, (and) exhibition design.”
French museums will lend artworks for a maximum of two years on a voluntary basis to the museum, in an arrangement that will last 10 years. Some 300 works will be loaned out in the first four years. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of five museums to be built on Saadiyat Island in the Gulf, a vast complex of luxury hotels, golf courses, marinas and private villas set for completion in 2018.