Mar 6, 2007

How much a museum cost?

Gulf countries, with fat wallets from high oil prices, have taken to buying everything, from universities, athletes and even art. Dubai, the most superficial city I've ever seen, has everything outsourced and brought from somewhere including the necessary manpower, the local population is about 15% which means everything is run by the 85% expats. You can go for days without seeing a local. Qatar brought Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown ... instead of advancing its substandard Qatar University. Administrators of these universities talk, disbelievingly, of unlimited budgets.

Now Abu Dhabi went a step further, why not buy a whole museum. For $700 million, the Louvre will have a branch in Abu Dhabi:
The deal, to be signed in Abu Dhabi by Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Sheikh Sultan bin Tannoun, paves the way for a new "Louvre Abu Dhabi", due to open in 2013.

The architect will be French. Construction costs will be borne by the emirate.
Most controversially, the agreement will allow Abu Dhabi to lease works from the Louvre and other French museums for durations of up to two years.
The deal have generated a controversy in France and many French art-lovers are critical of the deal, this is what the BBC had to say:
A storm is raging in France over the government's decision to build a branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi - the first-ever foreign annex of the world-famous art gallery.

The controversy is not over public spending on culture - French taxpayers think nothing of subsidising films to the tune of 500m euros a year ($700m; £350m).

The row centres on the fact that France stands to make money from the deal, being signed on Tuesday.

A good deal of money, in fact. According to unofficial estimates, Abu Dhabi should pay about 700m euros over 20 years for the privilege of displaying works from French museums.

This, according to critics, amounts to using France's artistic heritage for basely commercial ends.

"Our museums are not for sale", proclaims an online petition signed by 4,700 people - including many curators, art historians, and archaeologists.
The French public might disapprove of the deal but I doubt Abu Dhabi residents are even aware of the controversy, let alone voice their disapproval. But I wonder if there's more to it, let say an anti-Arab feeling:
French museums will be deprived of major works, which will be displayed in a "random, unscientific" way in Abu Dhabi
Why does it have to be "random, unscientific" if it's in Abu Dhabi?

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