Louvre 2.0: Culture as Fuel for Economy

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Text: Žikica Milošević

Several weeks ago, the world was ‘shaken’ by good news. For a change. The news was that a second Louvre Museum – The Louvre 2.0 – was opened in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, right in the middle of the desert, in an Islamic country which is usually not inclined towards figurative and experimental art.

The Louvre 2.0 is in Abu Dhabi, and not in…. New York? Of course not. I once had a girlfriend who was a visual artist and who complained about the art market being over-saturated. I retorted with three words – „Arabic world“, „China“, „India“. These are construction hubs with a lot of empty walls and corners just begging for paintings and sculptures. It is only logical that when money and the centres of civilization move towards East, their ‘faithful mistress’ – art – follows the trail. Art and culture generating money are as important as money generating art and culture.

LE LOUVRE MULTIPLIES – LES LOUVRES

So, how did it all come about? Let’s ask the Louvre directly. “Wishing to make their country a top cultural destination and internationally recognized for art, education, and culture, the leaders of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi launched the development of this major, universal art museum project. By developing tourism, education, and services, they aimed to dawn the post-oil age. Abu Dhabi called on French expertise to help them successfully bring the Arab world’s first universal museum to life.”

Napoleon courtyard of the Louvre museum at night time, with Ieoh Ming Pei’s pyramid in the middle.

To make things even better, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was not only a result of the collaboration between Abu Dhabi, as one of the emirates, and the Louvre, as a museum, but also a result of the incredibly strong cooperation between many institutions from both countries. It all started in March 2007 when a contract was concluded that stipulated „opening of the first universal museum in the Arabic world“. The museum brings the Louvre name to Abu Dhabi and presents both ancient and contemporary works of historic, cultural, and sociological interest from around the world. The French institutions that participated in the project are The Musée du Louvre, The Centre Pompidou, The Public Establishment of the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF), The Musée du Quai Branly, The Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais, The Musée et Domaine National de Versailles, The Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet, The École du Louvre, The Musée Rodin, The Domaine National de Chambord, and The French Operator for Heritage and Cultural Building Projects (Oppic).

So, is the ‘new’ Louvre a copy of the old one? Or is it more of a branch where the second-rate art collections, that have been sitting in the basement of the museum in Paris, are presented to the Third World? Definitely not! This is how the museum operates – the future museum is not, in any way, a copy of the French Louvre; it is an individual institution offering its own interpretation of a universal museum, reflecting its era and the local traditions of the country it lies in. Its collection, which will include loans from French institutions (rotated on a ten-year basis), as well as works from its own currently-developing compilation, will be presented in an original manner. Just to add that the license was sold for $500 million dollars, and that another $700 million were paid on the account of ‘advisory services’. Who says that culture doesn’t pay off and that you cannot export it?

The Louvre 2.0 is ‘the child’ of the Louvre 1.0, and not its clone. It can be likened to FC New York City, in the American soccer league, that was founded by FC Manchester City under the same colours, but not as Manchester City’s B team. Let me clarify that. This is not ‘a lower league’. This is rather ‘almost the same project’ but in a different location. Maybe a bit more advanced, but definitely different.

CULTURE AS A PROPELLANT

Bearing in mind that the people who bought the most important and expensive paintings lately come from Qatar and Dubai, and that one of these paintings has been purchased personally by Mohammad bin Salman, the future king of Saudi Arabia who promises to change his country and make it more open, such “export of culture” can only be beneficial. And using culture as help in deciding about a destination is certainly not a weak argument. On the contrary.

Although it seems to us that we are living in the age of social networks, superficiality, constant staring at our phones, selfies, reality shows and a decrease in overall culture, it is really not so. Culture has become more democratic as much as it has become superficial. Back in the day, some people chose culture as their destination, some did not at all. Everybody is doing the same nowadays too, but in a somewhat reduced volume. Culture has become more superficial, but, paradoxically enough, more important too.

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