Will The Louvre Abu Dhabi Finally Open in 2017?
While the initial agreement was signed in 2007, the project has been postponed many times and the opening, now announced for 2017, is uncertain.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi project is the very definition of a bumpy ride. While the initial agreement was signed in March 2007, the project has been postponed many times and the opening, now announced for 2017, is uncertain. As the world awaits, AFP had a look back on the project’s timeline.
Almost 10 years ago, France and the United Arab Emirates agreed on a 30-year partnership (worth $1.1billion): top French museums (including the world famous Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Versailles Palace), will loan art pieces to Abu Dhabi, so the Emirate can populate its very own Louvre, meant to open in 2012.
However, this decision gets a cold reception in France: it even leads to a petition against it, signed by 5,000 people, including museum directors, historians and curators. This petition stands firmly against the project, as it is perceived as a proof “the Louvre is selling its soul”. Most importantly, the treatment reserved by Abu Dhabi for dissidents and immigrant workers outrages the French.
While the economic crisis is looming, France and UAE sign off on the project’s timeline and terms of cooperation – setting the start of construction the same year as Saadiyat Island, a luxury complex hosting, among others, a Guggenheim Museum, golf courses and private villas.
Unfortunately, delays mount: from 2012, the competition date was postponed to 2013, then to 2014, then to 2015. The latest is confirmed in 2013, when a Dubai-based consortium announced it will build the museum for $654 million. It will not be honored.
The Louvre and the concomitantly in-development Guggenheim museum are pressured by Human Rights Watch: both constructions are hiring migrant workers and forcing them to rush the work in terrible conditions. Abu Dhabi refuses to consider those attacks, insisting they were based on “unfounded conclusions”.
Finally, in September, the Museum’s dome receives its outer layer of metal stars, supposed to announce the last stage of the construction.
Even if the UAE announced that the museum, now under the direction of Frenchman Manual Rabate, “will welcome visitors in 2017”, no official date has been announced yet.
Many events and art exhibitions have already been planned to celebrate the grand opening. However, the Museum, supposed to host 300 French artworks on its first day, might receive an umpteenth setback.
On Dec 3, French President Hollande will visit the site and attend a conference on heritage protection. With French elections being hold in May 2017, the project will have been managed by three different Presidents – each having his own opinion concerning the relationships the country should have with the Emirates.