The Louvre Abu Dhabi opens after many delays, burnishing the capital's cosmopolitan credentials and irking citizens who view the import from France as culturally alien.
The French government has been under fire for selling the Louvre's illustrious name and French culture for "petrodollars." Another cultural import, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, is due to open next door on Saadiyat (Happiness Island) in 2017.
The island, a US $27 billion tourist and cultural development, lies just offshore from the capital. Designed by Pritzker-prize winning architect Jean Nouvel, Louvre Abu Dhabi will open with some 600 artworks that combine loans from French collections and acquisitions for the museum's own collection.
The first-ever foreign annex of the world-famous art gallery, Louvre Abu Dhabi is the result of a 2007 intergovernmental agreement between France and the United Arab Emirates. The charge trailed the announcement that the agreement was morally dubious and distastefully nouveau riche. The founders of the project defend it as the first universal museum in the Arab world and a cultural bridge between civilizations at an ideal location, their reference to Saadiyat and to the United Arab Emirates as a cultural crossroad.
Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, which opened in 2006, represents another facet of the intergovernmental agreement.