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Louvre Abu Dhabi

Model of the future Louvre Abu Dhabi
Architectural style Modern
Location Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
Coordinates 24°17′01″N 54°13′17″E / 24.283515°N 54.221384°E / 24.283515; 54.221384
Completed 2012 – 2013[1]
Cost €83 million - €108 million
Design team
Architect Jean Nouvel
Structural engineer Buro Happold

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a planned museum, to be located in Abu Dhabi, UAE. On Tuesday 7 March 2007, the Louvre in Paris announced that a new Louvre museum would be completed by 2012 in Abu Dhabi. This is part of a thirty year agreement between the city of Abu Dhabi and the French government. The museum is to be located on the Saadiyat Island complex, and will be approximately 24,000 square metres (260,000 sq ft) in size. The final cost of the construction is expected to be between €83 million and €108 million.

Artwork from around the world will be showcased at the museum, with particular focus placed upon bridging the gap between Eastern and Western art. However, the construction of the museum has caused much controversy in the art world, as many objections have been raised as to the motives of the Louvre in this deal.



The thirty-year agreement, signed by French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, will prompt the construction of a Louvre museum on Saadiyat Island, near central Abu Dhabi, in exchange for US$1.3 billion.[2] The contract prohibits the creation of any similar operation with the name of the Louvre in any of the other emirates of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, or Iraq.[3] French President Jacques Chirac praised the museum deal with Abu Dhabi, saying it reflects "a certain idea of the world" in which each party to the accord, "proud of its roots and of its identity, is conscious of the equal dignity of all cultures."[4][5]


The establishment of this museum has been approved by the French Parliament on 9 October 2007. The architect for the building will be Jean Nouvel and the engineers are Buro Happold.[6][7] Jean Nouvel also designed the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.

The museum will be part of a US$27 billion tourist and cultural development that will be established on Saadiyat Island, a complex which will also include three other museums, including a Guggenheim Museum.[8] According to UAE interacts: "The French Museums agency will operate in collaboration with the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which is behind the transformation of Saadiyat Island. It will be chaired by French financier and member of the country's Académie des Beaux-Arts, Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, publisher of the periodical Revue des Deux Mondes."[9] Bruno Maquart, the former Executive Director of Centre Pompidou, will take the position of Executive Director."[9]

By choosing the Louvre, the emirate of Abu Dhabi not only sealed a partnership with the world’s most visited and well-known museum, but selected one which, from its very inception, had a vocation to reach out to the world, to the essence of mankind, through the contemplation of works of art.

Piling work on the louvre has already been finished by piling contractor Bauer International.


Saadiyat Island's Cultural District will house the largest single cluster of world-class cultural assets.[11] In addition to the Louvre Abu Dhabi these will include: the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, to be designed by United Kingdom-based construction company Foster and Partners under the direction of Lord Norman Foster; the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi contemporary arts museum - the world's largest Guggenheim and the only museum to be located in the Middle East; a performing arts centre designed by Zaha Hadid; a maritime museum with concept design by Tadao Ando and a number of arts pavilions.[12]


US$525 million was paid by Abu Dhabi to be associated with the Louvre name, and an additional $747 million in exchange for art loans, special exhibitions and management advice.[13] The museum is expected to cost between €83 million and €108 million to build, though estimates vary.


Cost estimates

US$525 million was paid by the city of Abu Dhabi for the use of the Louvre brand name, with US$195 million payable within a month.[14] US$247 million will be paid for the loan of artworks from the Louvre over a ten year period, with a total of between two hundred and three hundred artworks expected. The Parisian Louvre will also be providing management advice to its Middle Eastern counterpart, at a cost of US$214.5 million. An additional US$253.5 million will be paid for various special exhibitions. A total of four exhibitions will be hosted per year over a period of fifteen years.[13] The city of Abu Dhabi will also make a direct donation of US$32.5 million to the Louvre to refurbish a wing of the Pavillon de Flore for the display of international art.


A model of the museum's proposed design
The interior of the museum, showing the distinctive domed ceiling
The interior of the Louvre Abu Dhabi

The museum will be designed as a "seemingly floating dome structure"; its web-patterned dome allowing the sun to filter through. The overall effect is meant to represent "rays of sunlight passing through date palm fronds in an oasis."[15][16] The total area of the museum will be approximately 24,000 square metres (260,000 sq ft). The permanent collection will occupy 6,000 square metres (65,000 sq ft), and the temporary exhibitions will take place over 2,000 square metres (22,000 sq ft),[2][13]


Questions have been raised as to the nature of the artworks to be displayed at the museum. However, according to the National: "the type and nature of the exhibits planned for the Louvre Abu Dhabi have been affected to no extent by the fact the new museum would be in a Muslim country, said Mr. Loyrette."[17]

Subjects and themes have been freely discussed with our partners in Abu Dhabi and no request to avoid such subjects has been made. The exhibition policy will be set up regarding excellence and high-standard quality. As a new museum we hope the Louvre Abu Dhabi will be part of the international community.
—Henri Loyrette[17]

It has been noted that the museum will showcase work from multiple French museums, including the Louvre, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée d'Orsay and Palace of Versailles. However, Donnedieu de Vabres, the French Culture Minister, stated at the announcement that the Paris Louvre "would not sell any of its 35,000-piece collection currently on display".

It will not be dedicated to occidental art but will show all kinds of artistic creations. It will set up a dialogue between west and east, between north and south. As such, art from the Middle East will be shown within the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
—Henri Loyrette[17]


Construction works at Louvre, Abu Dhabi officially started on May 26, 2009. Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy inaugurated an exihibition titled, Talking Art: Louvre Abu Dhabi at the Gallery One of the Emirates Palace Hotel which includes 19 works of art bought over the last 18 months for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as well as loans from the French national museums to mark the beginning of the construction work.[18].[19]


The deal has sparked much controversy in both artistic and academic circles. According to Maymanah Farhat, "the controversy that has surfaced in France is led by art historian Didier Rykner, one of the most outspoken critics of the French–Emirati deal."[20] A petition against the deal, signed by 4,650 museum experts, archaeologists and art historians, has insisted that "museums are not for sale."[21][22] The Louvre has been accused of behaving "like a corporation with a clearly-defined strategy: profit maximization."[23] In the words of Didier Rykner:

We have lost a battle, but the combat continues.
—Didier Rykner


According to the New York Times, "Henri Loyrette, the president and director of the Louvre, has responded to growing criticism of the museum’s new policy of establishing footholds abroad, arguing that the Louvre cannot ignore the 'internationalization' of museums."[24] He had the following to say in the museum's defence:

It's a fair fee for the concession of the name. This tutelary role deserves reward. It's normal.
—Henri Loyrette
We're not selling the French legacy and heritage. We want this culture to radiate to parts of the world that value it. We're proud that Abu Dhabi wants to bring the Louvre here. We're not here to transform culture into a consumer product.
—Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres[25]

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi said:

This is a major achievement in Abu Dhabi's vision to become a world-class destination bridging global cultures. This accord further strengthens international dialogue, which will embrace all cultures. This initiative is a unique milestone in international cooperation and bilateral relations and a tribute to the longstanding and friendly ties our two nations have enjoyed. It also creates an enriching environment to be treasured by and to educate generations to come.

See also


  1. ^ "Louvre Abu Dhabi gets green light". Gulf News. 10 October 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  2. ^ a b "Art in the Desert". Spiegel Online. 2007-07-03.,1518,470356,00.html. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  3. ^ "Louvre Abu Dhabi’s exclusive deal". 30 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  4. ^ Heliot, Armelle (2007-10-15). "Le Louvre Abu Dhabi sous une coupole aérienne" (in French). Le Figaro. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  5. ^ Gomez, Edward (2008). "A Louvre for Abu Dhabi? It's a done deal". Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  6. ^ "Le "Louvre Abu Dhabi" verra bien le jour" (in French). Le Figaro. 9 October 2007. 
  7. ^ Robinson, Victoria (7 January 2008). "Abu Dhabi and Paris sign museam deal". MEED. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  8. ^ "Feu vert du parlement français au futur musée "Louvre Abou Dhabi"". AFP. 
  9. ^ a b "French cultural agency to steer work on Louvre Abu Dhabi". UAE Interact. 13/08/2007. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  10. ^ "Louvre Abu Dhabi to be created within the Saadiyat Island Cultural District". Mena Report. 2008-09-08. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  11. ^ "French Culture Minister heads delegation to UAE capital to seal Louvre Abu Dhabi operating framework". AME Info. 7 January - 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  12. ^ "Louvre Abu Dhabi". Nafas Art Magazine. 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-26. 
  13. ^ a b c "Riding, Alan". New York Times. 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  14. ^ Dilanchian, Noric (13 March 2007). "Louvre Abu Dhabi". Dilanchian Lawyers and Consultants. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  15. ^ "Louvre, Abu Dhabi". Wallpaper. 2007-05-07. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  16. ^ a b c Bardsley, Daniel (2008-08-19). "Abu Dhabi’s Louvre to get Middle East art". The National. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  17. ^ Eman Mohammed (May 26, 2009). "Construction of historic Louvre Abu Dhabi museum starts". Gulf News. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  18. ^ Vogel, Carol (May 26, 2009). "Abu Dhabi Gets a Sampler of World Art". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  19. ^ Farhat, Maymanah (27 March 2007). "The Louvre Abu Dhabi, Exploitation and the Politics of the Museum Industry". ZNet. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  20. ^ Astier, Henri (2007-03-07). "Gulf Louvre deal riles French art world". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  21. ^ Krane, Jim (2007-03-06). "France's Louvre branching to Abu Dhabi". Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  22. ^ Koek, Marjolein (2007-07-06). "The ‘Desert Louvre’ – a change in museum policy?". University of Sydney. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  23. ^ Van Gelder, Lawrence (9 January 2007). "Arts, Briefly". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  24. ^ "Louvre to build branch in Abu Dhabi". MSNBC. 6 March 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 

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