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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Abu Dhabi's Louvre to get Middle East art

The head of the Louvre in Paris has promised that the museum's Abu Dhabi branch will show exhibits from across the globe.
Louvre museum's president Henri Loyrette says the Abu Dhabi branch of the museum will not just focus on western art.
Louvre museum's president Henri Loyrette says the Abu Dhabi branch of the museum will not just focus on western art.

The head of the Louvre in Paris has promised that the museum's Abu Dhabi branch will show exhibits from across the globe and not just focus on western art. "It will not be dedicated to occidental art but will show all kinds of artistic creations," said Henri Loyrette, president and director of the Louvre. "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."

Mr Loyrette told The National that plans for the Louvre to open on Saadiyat Island in 2013 were on schedule. The French and Abu Dhabi governments signed a 30-year agreement in early 2007 for the creation and management of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, a French architect. Mr Loyrette said the US$1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) project was "a very new and interesting venture" and would be a "universal museum".

The type and nature of the exhibits planned for the Louvre had been affected "to no extent so far" by the fact the new museum would be in a Muslim country, said Mr Loyrette. "Subjects and themes have been freely discussed with our partners in Abu Dhabi and no request to avoid such subjects has been made," he said. "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."

In advance of the launch, a new wing of the Louvre in Paris, due to open in 2010, would showcase what Mr Loyrette described as one of the oldest collections of Islamic artefacts in the west. Exhibits in Abu Dhabi will come from the Louvre and other Paris museums, including the Musée d'Orsay, of which Mr Loyrette used to be the director, and the Centre Pompidou. An organisation called Agence France Museums had been formed to create the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Mr Loyrette said its officials would move to the city in 2010 or 2011 as the construction gained pace.

Staff would be hired especially for the new museum, rather than being taken from among the Louvre's employees in Paris. Mr Loyrette said he followed the progress of the Abu Dhabi project "daily", although within the Louvre Dominique de Font-Reaulx, a curator from the Musée d'Orsay, had been hired to co-ordinate the project. "The whole project will benefit from the excellence of Louvre staff and it will be consistent with the reputation of the Louvre name," said Mr Loyrette.

He admitted that maintaining in Abu Dhabi the standards seen in Paris, where the Louvre was established in 1793, would not be easy. "It's a big challenge for the Louvre as for all French museums," he said. "The Louvre Abu Dhabi will be a completely new institution but supported by the strong cultural expertise of French institutions and of the Louvre in particular." It could, he said, "become a laboratory for the museum field".

Mr Loyrette said the educational and cultural policies of the Abu Dhabi Government - which would also lead to the opening of a branch of the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi, as well as campuses of New York University and the Paris-Sorbonne - would "deeply change the way this location will be looked at and how it'll be considered". Mr Loyrette, appointed head of the Louvre in 2001, admitted there had been "quite a controversy" in France when the project was announced at the end of 2006. Some people were unhappy that, as they saw it, France was selling off its rich cultural heritage. "The work done since has been both to inform people in France and to strengthen the scientific and cultural side of the project," he said.

@Email:dbardsley@thenational.ae