OUTPOST OF THE LOUVRE
Home of masterpieces: Saadiyat Island takes shape WHEN Christie’s auctioned the extravagant art collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge in Paris in February, there was a new bidder on the block. And it was a bidder with very deep pockets, able to spend almost $US30 million ($36m) on Mondrian’s
and to snap up a 1920s stool for $US640,000. The new entrant to the art-collecting elite is the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, the Middle Eastern emirate sitting on oceans of oil (about 8 per cent of the planet’s total known deposits) and hectares of natural gas. This Arabian outpost of the French museum looks set to be the big drawcard of Saadiyat (Happiness) Island, Abu Dhabi’s $US27 billion tilt at becoming an international cultural hub.
With an ethereal perforated white dome design by Jean Nouvel, the new Louvre will be a repository of masterpieces across all faiths and cultures. Christ sculptures, Buddha heads and ancient Korans will vie for attention alongside works by old and new masters. It will operate under the sanction of the Paris Louvre, the world’s most popular museum, which reportedly pocketed about $US1.3bn for this pioneering franchise deal, sparking criticism by art purists that the venerable Louvre has sold out. French president Jacques Chirac responded to the charge by saying the venture showed France and Abu Dhabi were each ‘‘ proud of its roots and of its identity [and] is conscious of the equal dignity of all cultures’’.
The Abu Dhabi Louvre is expected to open in 2013, and will feature four major exhibitions a year. Kendall Hill