The louvre

After years of controversy, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s grand ambitions are failing

In an open letter dated October 5, 2017, the GLC asked the Louvre to “reimburse worker recruitment costs and lost wages due to the criminalization, imprisonment, dismissal and deportation of workers who go on strike.” According to the Mannes-Abbott, the museum has yet to respond.

Another embarrassment for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the recent publication of the book by Alexandre Kazerouni The mirror of the sheikhs, museum and politics in the principalities of the Persian Gulf (Sheikhs’ Mirror: Museum and Politics in the Kingdoms of the Persian Gulf), reviewed in the November issue of The arts journal. Kazerouni claims that part of the funds used to finance museums on Saadiyat Island come from the Office of the Compensation Program (later renamed the Tawazun Economic Program), a fund established in 1992 to collect monies that states selling weapons in the United Arab Emirates are required to invest in the countryside. According to Kazerouni, OPB assets were used to create what is known as the Mubadala Investment Fund in 2002. In 2009, the Mubadala Investment Fund purchased TDIC, which oversees Saadiyat Island and its museums. This would mean that money earned from the arms trade – possibly even arms deals with France – could have been spent on the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is surely hoping that some of this controversial background will be eclipsed by its superb inaugural exhibition, which features around 300 loans from 13 French institutions, as well as 300 pieces from Louvre Abu Dhabi’s fledgling collection. According to Jean-François Charnier, scientific director of Agence France-Muséums (the French agency in charge of the Louvre Abu Dhabi), the exhibition is a reflection on what he calls “inter-culturality”. The idea, he explained, was to “decompartmentalize” traditional museum departments and foster a new form of museology “coherent with globalization”.

Concretely, this means that instead of having, for example, Greek galleries, Roman galleries, 18th century painting galleries, etc., the Abu Dhabi curatorial team has designed a presentation roughly chronological with objects grouped by function, as well as formal and symbolic affinities.