The Louvre in Paris may be a one-and-only in the world, but no longer just by name.
With hopes to open in 2015, Louvre Abu Dhabi will be the first "universal" (sometimes called "encyclopedic") museum in the Arab world, planted on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi's high-end cultural center, in the United Arab Emirates.
So in some ways, it's going to be something of a Louvre franchise in the Middle East.
OK, so a franchise isn't the correct term, but the idea is similar. In 2007, the governments of France and the UAE shook on a deal of long-term diplomatic agreement. With that came the notion of LAD, which paid $525 million U.S. dollars to use the name and be associated with the Louvre, plus another $747 million for "art loans, special exhibitions and management advice," according to Wikipedia.
A lot of people are unhappy with the partnership, and the motives of the Louvre itself, which some see as maximizing profits in a way that museums shouldn't. According to Wikipedia, Henri Loyrette, the president and director of the Louvre, said, "It's a fair fee for the concession of the name. This tutelary role deserves reward. It's normal."
LAD will have its own permanent collection. In fact, it's already started accruing a broad array of world art, with six distinct themes, according to an article from The National. They cover: figurative art, art of the ancient world, sacred art, "eastern image," "western gaze" and finally "cultures in dialogue," which means "artistic narratives are not bound to time and place."
A hundred-thirty pieces from the collection, as it stands, will be part of the upcoming show Birth of a Museum, opening April 22 on Saadiyat Island. Ancient Bactrian and Cypriot sculptures greet visitors next to a 20th-century painting by Yves Klein.
But that won't fill the whole place, which is why a group of French institutions are loaning works to LAD. Besides the Louvre, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée d'Orsay and Palace of Versailles will provide pieces.
The building itself will be a marvel of modern design. According to today's Mail Movement article, the place will be something of a "floating city" with pavilions, plazas, alleyways and canals covered by a giant concrete umbrella-like structure that will be "perforated with interlaced patterns so that the filtered light creates real magic." With a current opening date projected for 2015, LAD will be its own island, nearly 700,000 square feet in size.
And if that wasn't enough, Mail Movement also reports that LAD will have distinguished neighbors: the Zayed National Museum, set to open in 2016, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, slated for 2017. Click here for renderings of the completed island.