French experts to help develop island Louvre in Gulf

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ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi on Sunday announced the creation of a body comprising some of France s leading cultural figures to oversee the development of a satellite Louvre museum in the wealthy Gulf Arab emirate.

The French Museums agency will help develop the branch of the famed cultural icon on an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, the emirate s tourism authority said in a statement.

Under the 30-year agreement, the government of Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, will pay $525 million just for the Louvre brand name.

Representatives from the Pompidou Centre, the Orsay Museum and the National Library of France are part of the new agency, the statement said.

The French Museums agency comprises some of the finest minds in the French cultural arena, Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoun Al-Nahayan, head of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, said in the statement.

Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, leading financer and member of the French Academy of Fine Arts, is chairing the new agency, the statement added.

The Louvre in the Gulf project has sparked bitter controversy in France where some 4,650 people – among them dozens of museum directors, curators and art historians – have signed a petition in protest.

Critics accuse the Louvre of selling its soul by loaning out its prized collections overseas, and dismiss the Abu Dhabi project as a gimmick that will only deprive the Louvre s 7.3 million annual visitors in Paris.

Construction of the 24,000-square-meter gallery designed by French architect Jean Nouvel will start later this year and cost $109 million.

The government of Abu Dhabi, the largest and wealthiest of the UAE s seven members, will foot the bill.

The new agency will supply expertise in the fields of restoration, curatorship, (and) exhibition design, Sunday s statement said, adding that our long-term ambition is to see UAE nationals fully trained in these specialist fields.

French museums will lend artworks for a maximum of two years on a voluntary basis to the museum, in an arrangement that will last 10 years. Some 300 works will be loaned out in the first four years.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of five museums to be built on Saadiyat island in the Gulf, a vast complex of luxury hotels, golf courses, marinas and private villas set for completion in 2018.

The Abu Dhabi government plans to turn the island into a world class tourist resort and a home for 150,000 people by 2018 as part of an effort to secure a larger slice of the Gulf region s booming tourist industry.

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