art & design

louvre abu dhabi


none of what you can see in these pictures actually exists. driving past Saadiyat Island, you can catch glimpses of the construction site of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. the dome is recognizable in the distance, maybe one third of it stretching into the sky. the rest is a random agglomeration of boxy shapes and cranes and dirt and dust.

the construction of the Abu Dhabi Louvre was announced in 2007 with its completion originally scheduled for 2012. current estimates predict its opening for 2015, but from what I can tell I wouldn’t hold my breath. let me give you some numbers so you can get an idea of who and what is involved in this project, only one of many of similarly mind-blowing size and dimensions.

the museum will be 24,000 square meters in size. that’s roughly 260,000 sq ft for you none-metric people out there. constructions costs are estimated to be anywhere between 83 and 108 million euro, that’s approximately US$ 114.6 to 149.2 million as of today.

and because that clearly isn’t expensive enough, an additional US$ 525 million was paid by Abu Dhabi to be able to use the name LOUVRE. another US$747 million will be paid in the future for art loans, special exhibition and management help.

and no, that’s not it yet. as I said, the Louvre is just one of many ambitions building projects. it’s part of a tourist and cultural development project for Saadiyat Island that will include a not insignificant number of other museums and institutions, like the Zayed National Museum (designed by Foster and Partners), the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim (by Frank Gehry, who else), a performing arts centre (by Zaha Hadid) and a maritime museum (by Tadao Ando). with the Louvre designed by Jean Nouvel you have the who is who of contemporary architecture all in one spot, and I’m sure they commissioned the likes of Calatrava, Koolhaas, Herzog and De Mueron, Alsop and Libeskind with designing food and beverage stalls just to get everyone who is anyone on board and because they can. the current budget for Saadiyat is US$ 27 billion. I’m sure there is some wriggle room in there…

thinking about all of this I’m intrigued, fascinated, appalled and disgusted – but not in equal measure. to be honest, I have no idea what to think about any of this. a friend of mine is loosely involved with the construction of a new local mega yacht, which is roughly US$ 250 spent on the whim of an individual (who already has one of them, mind you!). you could probably change the fate of a very small developing country with that amount of money, not to speak of what one could do with US$ 27 billion!!! but then again, it’s art and culture the money is spent on, and I’m a self-confessed and certified art snob myself. even in a country as new and raw as the UAE, an art hub like this – one focusing on well-established art forms trying to attract people with well-established bank accounts, I’m quite aware of that – will [hopefully] have a trickle-down effect and benefit artists and creatives, big and small alike. is this wishful thinking? am I a little naïve? maybe so… but it’s all I can do to wrap my head around that kind of spending in times of financial struggle anywhere else in the world.

that said, it does look pretty cool, don’t you think?