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Arts

Louvre to open museum in Abu Dhabi

The famed Paris art museum's location in the United Arab Emirates will feature post-impressionist French art as well as Middle Eastern works from all eras. Critics have accused the Louvre of "selling its soul."

On November 11, 2017, the Louvre will open its first gallery outside of France in the capital of the United Arab Emirate (UAE), the French Minister of Culture Francoise Nyssen said at a Wednesday conference in Abu Dhabi as she shook hands with the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority, Khalifa Al Mubarak. A key goal of the collection will be to highlight bridges between world civilizations throughout history.

The museum, which has been in the works for around a decade, was originally slated to open in 2012 but faced financing and construction delays. The 30-year-long partnership between France and the UAE that governs the Emirati Louvre-branded gallery is estimated to be worth $1.1 billion (919 million euros). It enables top French museums to loan works of art to the Abu Dhabi museum for 10 to 15 years.

Read more: Louvre partnership helps Belgium's Liège reinvent itself with art

The November opening means the Louvre will join the ranks of other prestigious museums that have opened branded branches beyond their home nations, such as the New York City based Guggenheim. It has three non-American locations including one set to open in Abu Dhabi.

The Louvre's glass pyramid in Paris, France (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Warnecke)

Critics have accused the Paris museum of 'selling its soul'

However, the French-UAE partnership has not been without its critics. Some accused the world-famous museum of betraying its cultural mission and behaving like a corporation governed by profit interests. The Emirati kingdom paid around $520 million alone for the right to use the Louvre name.

Read more: Louvre pyramid architect I. M. Pei turns 100

A 'universal museum'

Come November, art lovers in Abu Dhabi will be able to see over 600 masterpieces from around the world, including modern and contemporary artworks on loan from French museums and paintings and artifacts from the Middle East's ancient civilizations.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is billing itself as "the first universal museum in the Arab world." The collection focuses heavily on illustrating world histories and religions and will include nude figures, Islamic, Jewish, and Christian art and artifacts, and representations of East Asian deities.

The architecture of the new Abu Dhabi Louvre also seeks to highlight the surrounding culture. The complex was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and features a slivery dome whose permeations allow light to stream through it like the palm fronds of the Gulf. The buildings are also interspersed with pools of water.

cmb/kbm (AFP, Reuters)

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