x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Critics have lost battle, says minister

Critics of the decision to open a branch of the Louvre in the UAE have been proved wrong, according to the French minister of culture and communication.

ABU DHABI // Critics of the decision to open a branch of the Louvre in the UAE have been proved wrong, according to the French minister of culture and communication. The January 2007 agreement to build the Louvre Abu Dhabi was greeted with widespread criticism within the French art world. Some critics expressed fears that key works might be lent to the new museum.

But as further details of the development have been unveiled, the criticism has become more muted. In February 2007, a motion signed by 39 curators of the Louvre calling for a reversal of the Abu Dhabi deal was handed to the then minister of culture and communication, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres. An online petition started by Didier Rykner, a French art historian and editor of the online art journal La Tribune d'Art, was signed by more than 5,100 people, among them art lecturers and historians.

Last year Mr Rykner told The National his battle to stop works leaving France had been lost. He added: "I intend looking very closely at how this will happen, which works will be sent, which will be bought, and whether regional museums will be forced to send their works to Abu Dhabi against their will. I will remain vigilant." The culture minister, Christine Albanel, said: "The criticism has stopped now. There is a large consensus about the project.

"In the beginning, there was this concern that the Louvre could become a commercial brand. But the idea that we were advocating was that this is part of the France's worldwide promotion of the Louvre. "And the fact that people were looking at the Louvre as an outstanding museum was something that could serve the Louvre much more than it could cause it a disservice." In February, Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, praised Jean Nouvel's designs for the museum, which he said were "magnificent, really something quite extraordinary".

While on a visit to Abu Dhabi, he said the development would help the promotion of Paris and its attractions on a global scale. "Globalisation should not be just about commerce or crises," he added. "If you cannot share knowledge and beauty, it is no good." Mrs Albanel said: "There was a big debate around culture and business. There was this idea that culture may also become part of the economy. "Now things have completely changed. We need to diversify and go for ambitious projects. There is no question about this now.

"Critics also came from a certain ignorance about the state of mind of the Emiratis. But the first time I came, I was very impressed by their vision." rhughes@thenational.ae