At the time the Louvre museum was opening in Paris, in the 1790s, the first Bani Yas tribe families were leaving the Liwa oasis to settle on the shores of Abu Dhabi island. All these centuries later, the two have entered into a partnership that transcends all cultural barriers. One of the world’s grandest and most popular museums, the Louvre, has agreed to lend Abu Dhabi emirate’s new museum its name for the next 30 years against US$ 525 million.
Following a decade of planning – 10 years, 8 months and 250 days to be exact – Louvre Abu Dhabi has finally released its opening date: 11th November, 2017. On this day, the museum will reveal over 600 works of art that belong to its permanent collection, as well as loans from 13 major French cultural institutions, including the Louvre Museum, the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
The opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi marks the latest international cultural franchising deal, where big name museums and galleries lend their brand to overseas institutions. In the case of Louvre, its Abu Dhabi “branch” was the first such deal worldwide. When it was first announced, in 2007, it sparked protests and criticism in France that it sells out French culture (similar to the Guggenheim franchises being labelled ‘McGuggenheims’).
Long before writing with light, long before photography began to unveil the mysterious Orient, explorers travelled across Arab lands to bring back geographical, cultural and social descriptions, as well as maps.
“Taif, a city surrounded by a wall, is set on a high mountain in a land so pleasant and fertile that Arab writers compare it to Sana’ and Damascus. From here people send many green fruits, especially grapes, to Mecca and Jeddah, and great quantities of almonds are transported as far as the Indies”, wrote the German explorer Carsten Niehbur in his Description of Arabia book, published in 1772.