x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Saadiyat Louvre to open in 2015

TDIC allays fears that projects has been scrapped and says all the landmark museums will be ready for business in five years.

A newly unveiled timetable for the opening of Saadiyat Island's landmark museums promises the long-delayed cultural projects will be completed by 2017.

The capital's arm of the Louvre Museum is expected to be the first for completion, with an opening date of 2015. The Zayed National Museum will follow with an opening in 2016, and the Guggenheim is expected to open in 2017.

The revised delivery dates come just three months after the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), the island's master developer, said construction on the museums was stalled.

Though delayed, TDIC officials insisted none of the projects had been scrapped. The Louvre and Guggenheim museums were initially expected to be finished by 2014, and the national museum later that year.

"We are fully confident that we will fulfil our promise of delivering the level of museums expected from TDIC, the Saadiyat Cultural District and Abu Dhabi," said Mubarak Al Muhairi, the general manager of TDIC.

He added that the authority "is ready to plan a new implementation process for the museums".

The new chronology for the Saadiyat Cultural District centrepieces comes on the heels of an Executive Council announcement earlier this week that budgets and expected opening dates for the museums were finalised.

TDIC and the Executive Council called for a plan with a staggered timetable to allow each museum to gain its own following.

The cultural district is envisioned as the gem of Saadiyat Island, one of TDIC's flagship development projects, and is advertised as featuring "the world's largest single concentration of premier cultural institutions when complete".

The island will eventually house an estimated 145,000 residents and all construction is expected to be completed by 2020.

Building at the museum sites has been slow. Work on the Louvre and Guggenheim began in 2009, and piling works on the Louvre and Zayed National museums were completed last year.

It is not clear if the projects will be scaled back. Primary construction has not yet begun, and building contracts have still not been awarded.

Mr Al Muhairi would not say when building would resume, and TDIC refused to comment on whether tenders would be relaunched.

"TDIC will continue to work on all aspects of the museums' delivery, including construction, research, acquisition of art and staff training," Mr Al Muhairi said.

Acquisitions for the Louvre's permanent collection have already been selected, and TDIC is hosting a series of research trips across the country as part of preparation for the national museum.

Exhibitions, talks and public discussions are still scheduled to take place on Saadiyat Island in the run-up to the openings.

Each museum will have its own appeal. The Louvre, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, will feature art from different civilisations and cultures, from the ancient to the contemporary.

The Zayed National Museum, which is being developed with the help of the British Museum, will include five galleries, a library, educational facilities and a fine-dining restaurant. The cornerstone of the Saadiyat Island cultural hub, which was designed by Norman Foster, will simultaneously honour the life and achievements of Sheikh Zayed and celebrate the rich history of the UAE.

The Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim will focus on transnational contemporary art and will include work from Emirati artists alongside masterpieces from the museum's global collections.

jthomas@thenational.ae