Saturday, January 20, 2007

France divided over nude-free Louvre in Gulf

Jason Burke in Paris
The Observer []

The Louvre is to lend its name and its masterpieces to a new museum in Abu Dhabi for a fee approaching half a billion pounds. Officials from the Paris museum will fly out this week to complete the controversial deal with the emirate's royal family.

Some of the art in the new Louvre, with its facade the colour of sand, will be chosen to avoid offending local religious sensibilites. The museum will be on Saadiyat Island, 500 yards off the coast of the island on which Abu Dhabi sits. A £15bn construction programme will convert a sand spit into a commercial, residential, and cultural centre over 15 years. One project announced is a local Guggenheim museum, dedicated to contemporary art. The £250m building has been designed by architect Frank Gehry.

Opponents claim the government and the director of the Louvre are 'prostituting culture'. 'The nation can afford to pay for its museums, or it should make sure it can afford its museums,' said Didier Rykner, who has organised a petition against the project that has more than 4,000 signatures. 'You wouldn't ask the military to rent out one of its aircraft carriers if it needed some cash.'

Others have raised the prospect of a Muslim state objecting to key works of Western art, such as nudes. Officials at the Louvre say the Abu Dhabi museum will not present works that may cause offence, but will maintain a collection representative of Western European art.

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