It’s not a new story but reminding ourselves of the vast undertaking at Saadyit Island in Abu Dhabi is always worthwhile. This is a key moment in the emergence of a global culture and art–especially art history–is playing a leading edge role. If the museums on Saadyit are successful they will situate Western art history within the emergence of a new global economy whose center could be in the Gulf. Something to think about:
By 2013, the capital of the United Arab Emirates will boast an offshoot of the Louvre, a new Guggenheim museum, a National Museum inspired by the British Museum, a performing arts centre designed by the British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, several art schools, and various pavilions and other cultural franchises that will be able to host temporary exhibitions from around the world. A 10-lane bridge will bring millions of visitors to this meticulously planned development. More than 40million people travel through the UAE each year; there is a market to be seized. […]
The accelerated, three-year construction timetable has begun: French President Nicholas Sarkozy flew in for a ceremony to mark the occasion in May, and the 10-lane bridge will be operational next month. Still, there have been accusations that the vast migrant Asian workforce is being exploited and Human Rights Watch has used the Saadiyat development to increase pressure for legal change and enforcement. […]
Despite these objections, however, Abu Dhabi has not budged, and its approach of recruiting experts is gaining momentum. Abdulla al-Amri, director of Abu Dhabi’s department of arts and culture, is bullish about the new partnerships. “We want to acquire the knowledge and skill base that others already have,” he says. “This is our apprenticeship. If we can, we should learn from the best around the world, as the Europeans did in the Renaissance.”
Plenty of figures have made the jump. Thomas Krens, the former director of the Guggenheim Foundation, has turned his full attention to Abu Dhabi. “The Middle East is one of the world’s most important emerging regions in terms of contemporary culture,” he says.