“Jean Nouvel”

United Arab Emirates: competitiveness and big cultural projects

Determined to exit from a “petrol only” economy, the United Arab Emirates have been backing, since 2007, the transformation of culture into a profit-yielding product. Massive investments, grandiose museum projects… Abu Dhabi and Dubai aspire to position themselves as cultural centres of a globalised 21st century while Sharjah is investing in less onerous projects. The three main emirates of the UAE federation don’t take the same approach when it comes to diversifying their economy. Nor do they have the same financial means. Abu Dhabi remains the most ambitious of the three, with its Saadiyat Island (literally, “Felicity Island”) complex created completely from scratch in the last decade. Thanks to colossal investments estimated at 25 billion euros according to The Financial Times, this emirate has constructed a district entirely devoted to culture, with no less than four big museums and a live arts centre, whose programming is set to rival with that of London or New York. On paper, the project looks attractive, but since 2007, only one museum has emerged from the sand, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, constructed by Frenchman Jean Nouvel. Apart from this museum, the building of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (Frank Gehry), the Zayed National Museum (Norman Foster) and the Maritime Museum (Tadao Ando) have also been scheduled. The Centre for Performing Arts was meant to be constructed by Zaha Hadid. With an opening long announced for 2013, then 2016, the Guggenheim had its preliminary works stopped in 2011 when thousands of concrete piers started being formed, following the repercussions of the Arab Springs, and a controversy surrounding the conditions of workers. To date, according to the press service of the Guggenheim Foundation, construction “has not yet begun”. The reason is an absence of any agreement with a construction company despite the launching of a call...

Tags: , , , ,

No official opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi by French president

French president François Hollande has been stopped from officially opening the Louvre Abu Dhabi, whose construction has notched up a few technical problems. Its opening has now been postponed until November 2017. Originally, the museum was supposed to open in 2012. Work on the museum’s water basins and large cupola, designed by Jean Nouvel, has raised major obstacles for the project’s completion. The emirate has not however specified the reasons for the opening’s cancellation. François Hollande nonetheless wishes for a symbolic inauguration to be held before France’s next presidential elections in May...

Tags: , , ,

Manuel Rabaté becomes director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi

As reported in The Art Newspaper, Manuel Rabaté, head of the Agence France-Muséums since 2013, has been appointed director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. He also previously worked for the Musée du Quai Branly and the Musée du Louvre in Paris. An Emirati, Hissa Al Dhaheri, who has supervised the Louvre Abu Dhabi project for the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, has been appointed deputy director of the institution. Designed by Jean Nouvel, this one billion-dollar building is set to open on the island of Saadiyat in the United Arab Emirates in one...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Austerity in Qatar?

Qatar is cutting its public expenses, and culture is paying for it. This is a consequence of the fall in petrol prices. A slash in grants has cost 240 members of the Qatar Museums Authority their jobs, and threats hang over another 400 positions. In addition, institutions including the Katara Cultural Village are facing drastic budgetary cuts, while major projects such as the Qatar National Museum, designed by Jean Nouvel, are being slowed down due to reduced budgets. This wave of austerity affects most of the State’s budgets, including transport, energy and health, but is not expected to impact the royal Qatari family’s acquisition budget for their art...

Tags: , ,

Art in the 90s: Starchitecture and the Bilbao Effect

Departing every fifteen minutes from outside the Fondation Louis Vuitton is a shuttle bus adorned with an advertisement for Frank Gehry’s latest art gallery. What is striking is that the image depicts the Fondation’s billowing sails not in the Bois de Boulogne but in some sort of celestial desert; the gallery has transcended its earthly surroundings and landed zeppelin-like in the future. Given that the destination of this shuttle bus is the Arc de Triomphe, the most symbolically French monument in the French capital, one cannot help but feel that this is a deliberate denial of location. This is a frequent criticism levelled at Frank Gehry, the “starchitect” whose iconic status was sealed almost twenty years ago by his equally placeless Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Indeed in an essay for the Architectural Review in the year of the Guggenheim’s opening, the current editor Catherine Slessor noted, “The prominence and exposure of the site is curiously well suited to Gehry’s architecture, which generally works best on a tabula rasa.” Reversing conventional architectural logic, it seems that the location fits the building rather than the building the location. But this is the ultimate irony and, perhaps, legacy of the “Bilbao Effect”— cities will try to put themselves on the map by shedding themselves of a sense of place. The “Bilbao Effect” refers to the trend that emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s amongst cities to try and copy the success that Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum had in turning around the economically stagnating city of Bilbao. City councillors across the world spent vast sums of money to follow a simple, but seemingly infallible recipe: one “starchitect” + one branch of a preferably branded arts institution (e.g. Guggenheim, Louvre) = international reputation and resultant tourism revenue. The “Bilbao Effect” is perhaps about...

Tags: , , , , , ,

Ad.