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Thread: Cultural Xanadu for Abu Dhabi (Gehry, Nouvel, Ando, Hadid)

  1. #1
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    Default Gehry / Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi

    Guggenheim Foundation and Abu Dhabi Plan Museum There

    NY TIMES
    By CAROL VOGEL
    July 9, 2006

    The government of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, announced yesterday that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Guggenheim Foundation to build a 300,000-square-foot museum in Abu Dhabi to be designed by Frank Gehry.

    The museum, to be called the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, would house Modern and contemporary art and serve as the linchpin of a sprawling development in a new cultural district of Saadiyat (Arabic for "isle of happiness"), a 10-square-mile natural island just off Abu Dhabi.

    Government officials hope that the island will become a center of vibrant activity, with residential housing, hotels, restaurants and a golf course, as well as a national museum, a classical art museum, a maritime museum, a performing arts center and a park. They predict that the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will be completed by 2011.

    As outlined, the museum would be the largest of the Guggenheim's outposts, 25 percent larger than the titanium-clad Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, which Mr. Gehry also designed. "This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Guggenheim to become involved in the Middle East," said Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation. "Our challenge now is to define the next generation of Guggenheim Museums."

    Since he joined the Guggenheim in 1988, Mr. Krens has been praised, criticized and imitated for his vision of creating a worldwide network of Guggenheims. Not all of his plans to open satellites by world-class architects have borne fruit.

    A planned Guggenheim in Taiwan by the architect Zaha Hadid never materialized because the local government of Taichung could not raise the money; a proposed Guggenheim in Rio de Janeiro to be designed by Jean Nouvel was abandoned last year. The city of Guadalajara, Mexico, is struggling to raise funds for a Guggenheim created by the Mexican architect Enrique Norten. The Guggenheim and the Pompidou Center in Paris are discussing building a museum in Hong Kong.

    Mr. Krens still seems sanguine about the economic prospects in Abu Dhabi, which has been investing considerable capital in luxury tourism to raise its international profile. "Clearly the resources and the enthusiasm is there," he said.

    The development arm of Abu Dhabi's tourism authority will assume the costs of building and operating the new museum, though officials declined to put a figure on how much it would cost. Similarly, the expense and operations of Guggenheim's successful museum in Bilbao was covered by the Basque regional government there.

    And just as the Guggenheim in New York oversees the running of Bilbao, its officials would manage the Abu Dhabi museum's programs and education initiatives. They would also oversee an acquisitions program financed by Abu Dhabi.

    Since the Guggenheim Bilbao opened in 1997, it has been a significant boost to that formerly depressed city, attracting nearly one million visitors a year. In its first five years, studies show, the museum generated more than $1 billion for the Basque region, more than 10 times the cost of the museum's construction, and some $183.4 million in local tax revenue.

    "For a few years now," Oussama al Rifahi, development director for Abu Dhabi's tourism arm, said in an interview, "we have been working on positioning Abu Dhabi as a cultural destination."

    In searching for "the ideal partner," he said, he and other development officials visited the Guggenheim in New York last September to discuss the museum's philosophy and international mission. "We found the synergy very good," he said. He added that the Abu Dhabi government was in talks with other cultural institutions about the development on Saadiyat but declined to give specifics.

    Like the other Guggenheim outposts, Mr. Rifahi said, the Abu Dhabi museum will focus on Modern and contemporary art, both international and regional. He said that while the institution would be "prudent" in pursuing acquisitions, "we are interested in artists from all over the world — Asia, Europe, America, as well as some of our local artists."

    He said he hoped that the Gehry building would be one of a series of landmarks on the island that "the local people can identify with."

    Currently the Guggenheim owns three museums: the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue in New York; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the Grand Canal in Venice; and the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum in Las Vegas.

    In addition, it provides programming and management for the Bilbao branch and for the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. And it shares its collections and collaborates on programming with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

    The chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, said he visited Mr. Gehry at his Los Angeles office a few months ago and toured the architect's Walt Disney Concert Hall there.

    On Friday, Mr. Gehry arrived in Abu Dhabi and viewed the site of the future museum for the first time. "It's a vast desert on the edge of the water," he said in a telephone interview. "It gives new meaning to the phrase 'starting from scratch.' "

    While Mr. Gehry said it was far too early to describe a possible design, he predicted that it would not resemble his sinuous stone, glass and titanium Bilbao. "I don't think I repeat myself," he said.


    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  2. #2

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    The museum, to be called the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, would house Modern and contemporary art and serve as the linchpin of a sprawling development in a new cultural district of Saadiyat (Arabic for "isle of happiness").
    That's what they need: a little happiness! Plus a dollop of culture. This is especially promising as it will be full of graven images. It's an example of how we can lure Islamic cultures into the modern world. The more materialism and art surrounds them the less they'll be inclined to seek the dismal solace of religion. So all those folks who say the key is economic development are right; what could be a surer sign of disposable income than art?

    This is a very promising development.

    Government officials hope that the island will become a center of vibrant activity, with residential housing, hotels, restaurants and a golf course, as well as a national museum, a classical art museum, a maritime museum, a performing arts center and a park.
    Sure beats making bombs and plotting mayhem.

    As outlined, the museum would be the largest of the Guggenheim's outposts, 25 percent larger than the titanium-clad Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, which Mr. Gehry also designed.
    No half measures here.

    "This is an extraordinary opportunity for the Guggenheim to become involved in the Middle East," said Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation. "Our challenge now is to define the next generation of Guggenheim Museums."

    Since he joined the Guggenheim in 1988, Mr. Krens has been praised, criticized and imitated for his vision of creating a worldwide network of Guggenheims.
    The Mc'Seum.

    Mr. Krens still seems sanguine about the economic prospects in Abu Dhabi, which has been investing considerable capital in luxury tourism to raise its international profile. "Clearly the resources and the enthusiasm is there," he said.
    They need to provide plenty of Western-style luxuries and culture to keep their people out of mischief.

    And just as the Guggenheim in New York oversees the running of Bilbao, its officials would manage the Abu Dhabi museum's programs and education initiatives. They would also oversee an acquisitions program financed by Abu Dhabi.
    Acquisitions! Hot dog! That's what they need: plenty of acquisitions. I suggest that every country donate one of its prize female nudes. The U.S. could send Hiram Powers' Greek Slave; Spain, the Naked Maja; France, anything by Ingres or Cabanel and England, a juicy nude by Alma-Tadema. Italy could send the topless portrait of Lucrezia Borgia. We could slip in a few paintings by Vargas --not exactly art, but who's to tell?

    Since the Guggenheim Bilbao opened in 1997, it has been a significant boost to that formerly depressed city, attracting nearly one million visitors a year. In its first five years, studies show, the museum generated more than $1 billion for the Basque region, more than 10 times the cost of the museum's construction, and some $183.4 million in local tax revenue.
    A further boost for Abu Dhabi's already robust economy. Think how much acquisitiveness, materialism and therefore peace all those bucks will engender. It will drive the imams up the wall.

    "For a few years now," Oussama al Rifahi, development director for Abu Dhabi's tourism arm, said in an interview, "we have been working on positioning Abu Dhabi as a cultural destination."
    Just so the man in the cave doesn't decide to send some of his boys there for an...ahem...vacation.

    He said he hoped that the Gehry building would be one of a series of landmarks on the island that "the local people can identify with."
    Me too.

    While Mr. Gehry said it was far too early to describe a possible design, he predicted that it would not resemble his sinuous stone, glass and titanium Bilbao. "I don't think I repeat myself," he said.
    That's funny, he's usually more truthful.

  3. #3

    Default Cultural Xanadu for Abu Dhabi (Gehry, Nouvel, Ando, Hadid)

    February 1, 2007
    Celebrity Architects Reveal a Daring Cultural Xanadu for the Arab World
    By HASSAN FATTAH


    Zaha Hadid’s design for a performing arts center for an island in Abu Dhabi.


    Visitors survey an exhibition unveiling designs for a vast and architecturally ambitious cultural district planned for Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, part of the United Arab Emirates.

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 31 — In this land of big ambition and deep pockets, planners on Wednesday unveiled designs for an audacious multibillion-dollar cultural district whose like has never been seen in the Arab world.

    The designs presented here in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and one of the world’s top oil producers, are to be built on an island just off the coast and include three museums designed by the celebrity architects Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel and Tadao Ando, as well as a sprawling, spaceshiplike performing arts center designed by Zaha Hadid.

    Mr. Gehry’s building is intended for an Abu Dhabi branch of the Guggenheim Museum featuring contemporary art and Mr. Nouvel’s for a classical museum, possibly an outpost of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Mr. Ando’s is to house a maritime museum reflecting the history of the Arabian gulf.

    The project also calls for a national museum and a biennial exhibition space composed of 19 pavilions designed by smaller names and snaking along a canal that cuts through the island. Art schools and an art college are also planned.

    In all, the project, known as the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island, would create an exhibition space intended to turn this once-sleepy desert city along the Persian Gulf into an international arts capital and tourist destination. If completed according to plan sometime in the next decade, consultants predict, it could be the world’s largest single arts-and-culture development project in recent memory.

    At times astonishing, at times controversial, the district is part of a far broader $27 billion development project on the island that includes hotels, resorts, golf courses and housing that could accommodate 125,000 residents or more.

    The museum designs, displayed at an exhibition attended by dignitaries and the United Arab Emirates leadership, are a striking departure from Abu Dhabi’s crumbling 1970s-style concrete buildings and more modern glass-and-steel high-rises. Still, because Saadiyat Island is undeveloped, architects faced the unusual challenge of an aesthetic and contextual tabula rasa.

    The daring designs, some teeming with life and color, others more starkly formal, have one aspect in common: it probably would be hard to build them all in one district anywhere else.

    “It’s like a clean slate in a country full of resources,” said Mr. Gehry, who appeared at the exhibition to show off his model for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. “It’s an opportunity for the world of art and culture that is not available anywhere else because you’re building a desert enclave without the contextual constraints of a city.”

    No cost estimates were given for the buildings unveiled on Wednesday, but each is certain to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    For the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Mr. Gehry envisions a 320,000-square-foot structure with 130,000 square feet of exhibition space built around a cluster of galleries, a space far larger than his Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, which cost about $100 million. A jumble of blocks, glass awnings and open spaces, the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim would be centered on a core of galleries of varying height atop one another and forming a courtyard. A second ring of larger galleries is followed by a third ring of galleries housing raw industrial-looking spaces with exposed lighting and mechanical systems.

    The design for the classical museum enters into a dialogue with its surroundings, suggesting a submerged archaeological field with a cluster of one-room buildings placed along a promenade. The complex is covered by a massive translucent dome etched in patterns that allow diffused light into the spaces below.

    Mr. Ando’s maritime museum design borrows from the maritime history of the emirates, with a reflective surface merging sea and land and a shiplike interior with floating decks.

    Ms. Hadid’s performing arts center concept, which seems part spaceship, part organism, is to house a music hall, concert hall, opera house and two theaters, one seating up to 6,300. Transparent and airy, the center hovers over the azure waters of the Persian Gulf.

    “It’s an inspiration from nature and an organic design, with a fluid design, as well as a space with good sound,” Ms. Hadid said.

    Abu Dhabi’s sheiks dreamed up this sweeping cultural project in late 2004, after brainstorming ways to attract more tourism to the emirate, which is the richest of the seven in the United Arab Emirates confederation, but has largely missed out on the flood of visitors attracted by its neighbor Dubai.

    Flush with cash from the oil boom, the emirate has embarked on a development spree intended to update its infrastructure after years of limited development. Abu Dhabi’s tourist board insists it is not trying to one-up Dubai, but instead wants to complement Dubai’s emphasis on other forms of entertainment.

    “The real strategic decision here is that Dubai has established itself as a tourist destination, and Abu Dhabi is complementing what Dubai is doing,” said Barry Lord, president of Lord Cultural Resources, which has helped manage the development of the cultural project. “Cultural tourists are wealthier, older, more educated, and they spend more. From an economic view, this makes sense.”

    Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development and Investment Company announced a deal to build the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi last year. Recently it reached a $1 billion accord to rent the name, art and expertise of the Louvre for a museum to be built on the island. Protests quickly arose in France that that country was selling its patrimony to the highest bidder. The emirate’s tourism officials played down the Louvre plan on Wednesday, insisting the deal was not final.

    Mr. Lord noted that the arts project was taking shape against the backdrop of continued turbulence in the Middle East.

    “They are very conscious here that this can change the cultural climate in the region,” Mr. Lord said. “To be able to add high culture at the high end of international culture, this is a tremendous change.”

    After oil booms in the 1970s and 80s in which their proceeds were not always used wisely, Persian Gulf governments are now focusing on spending their surpluses on infrastructure projects and real-estate development. A new generation of leaders in the gulf, especially in the emirates, where a new ruler was installed only in late 2004 and where several ministers are still in their 30s, has looked beyond traditional real-estate projects to efforts that would help their cities stand out on the world stage.

    Other Persian Gulf countries have turned to the arts too. In Qatar the final touches are being added to I. M. Pei’s latest structure, the Qatar Museum, built just off the coast of the capital, Doha, to house a new Islamic arts collection. In Sharjah, another emirate, which has fashioned itself as the cultural capital of the Persian Gulf, the Sharjah Art Museum continues to expand its collection and is planning its eighth biennial. And even Dubai is building a Culture Village, centered on an opera house also designed by Ms. Hadid and other arts and culture institutions.

    “This is not just about tourism; it also has global cultural dimensions,” Mubarak Muhairi, the director general of the Abu Dhabi tourism authority, said. “We believe the best vehicle for crossing borders is art. And this region is in need of such artistic initiatives.”



    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  4. #4

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    February 1, 2007
    Arts & Leisure Preview
    A Vision in the Desert
    By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF


    Planned for a 670-acre cultural district in Abu Dhabi: Above, from left, a Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry, a classical museum by Jean Nouvel, a performing arts center by Zaha Hadid, a maritime museum by Tadao Ando. Also envisioned are a national museum and 19 arts pavilions bordering a canal.

    Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

    FIFTY years ago this modest slice of the Persian Gulf coast was a sleepy settlement of palm-front huts and Bedouin encampments, its few thousand inhabitants mostly subsisting on fishing and the pearl-diving trade. Oil changed all that of course, and since the 1960s Abu Dhabi has morphed into a modern capital of hotels and high rises, fulfilling the economic vision of the United Arab Emirates’ ambitious former leader, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan.

    Now the city is on the verge of another audacious leap. Over the next decade or so it aims to become one of the great cultural centers of the Middle East: the heir, in its way, to cosmopolitan cities of old like Beirut, Cairo and Baghdad.

    This latter-day Xanadu, as envisioned in a glittering multimillion-dollar exhibition in the lobby of the opulent Emirates Palace Hotel here, would boast four museums, a performing arts center and 19 art pavilions designed by celebrated architects like Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel. The development could include leading cultural lights of the West, from the Guggenheim to the Louvre to Yale University.

    Just one component of a $27 billion residential, office and hotel development planned for Saadiyat Island (Island of Happiness), the 670-acre cultural district is still in the nascent stages. Most of the major cultural institutions have yet to sign on officially, and the Guggenheim, for one, is well known for chasing unrealized dreams.

    Some will dismiss this kingdom of culture as a mere tourist development in which art, history and regional identity are reduced to marketing commodities. But those who view it as an exercise in global branding or as a feel-good story about an Arab country willing to embrace the values of Western modernity are missing the point.

    With once-proud cities like Beirut and Baghdad ripped apart by political conflict bordering on civil war, Abu Dhabi offers the hope of a major realignment, a chance to plant the seeds for a fertile new cultural model in the Middle East.

    It’s easy to be skeptical. But judging by the designs released so far, the buildings promise to be more than aesthetic experiments, outlining a vision of cross-cultural pollination.

    For Abu Dhabi’s tourist and development authority, mapping out a mix of marinas and beachfront resorts seemed straightforward enough. But when it came to the cultural master plan, the agency decided to call in Thomas Krens, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, known for his campaign to open a dozen Guggenheim branches in places like Singapore, St. Petersburg and Rio de Janeiro (few of which have been built).

    He began by pulling together a list of famous architectural talents. For the Guggenheim Mr. Gehry was enlisted to replicate his success in Bilbao, Spain. Mr. Nouvel was offered a “classical” museum that could house visiting exhibitions from the Louvre, Ms. Hadid a performing arts center and Tadao Ando a maritime museum. (Each building is expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.)

    Mr. Krens worked with Skidmore Owings & Merrill to revamp the original master plan, adding a canal flanked by a string of 19 pavilions that could be used to present art and architecture biennials — a not-so-subtle knockoff of the highly successful Venice Biennale. Meanwhile the development authority began a series of conversations with Yale University about creating an arts school — encompassing art, architecture, dance and drama — directly across the performing arts center. Next on the agenda is a competition to design a national museum.

    In some ways this array suggests the market’s insatiable appetite for novelty rather than a cohesive vision. In the early stages the various cultural institutions will rely mostly on art loans from foreign museums and performances by touring companies. For the time being Abu Dhabi has no opera company or orchestra that would use the performing arts center as a permanent home.

    And the exhibition at the Emirates Palace Hotel comes across as an extravagant marketing pitch to the country’s rulers, who have yet to give the project final approval. A chunk is devoted to the Guggenheim Bilbao, a blunt reminder of how architecture has been used as a marketing gambit. A wall text unabashedly projects figures on the income the cultural hub could generate through new tourism.

    But in Abu Dhabi, Mr. Krens has found a client whose interest runs deeper than collecting tourist dollars. Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon al-Nahyan, chief of the tourist and development authority, says the emirate’s desire is to create a contemporary cultural locus with little precedent in the region.

    “What is happening is unfortunate in places like Beirut,” Sheik Sultan said. “We want it to come back to its old days.” Ultimately, he added, the emirate hopes that Abu Dhabi’s arts district will become a cultural hub of the Middle East and a starting point for cultural exchange.

    Given the difficulties Muslims have encountered traveling to and doing business in the United States and Europe since 9/11, the project can also be read as an attempt to recreate the experience of the West in a secure zone for Arabs, a kind of mini-Switzerland of the Middle East.

    Of the architects enlisted so far Mr. Nouvel in particular has spent his career exploring the intersection between the intricacies of local cultures and Western modernism. For his 1987 Institute of the Arab World in Paris, he designed a gridlike facade of mechanical oculi that open and close like camera lenses, evoking an Arab mashrabiya, or latticework window. His anarchic Musée du Quai Branly, which opened in Paris last summer, evokes a violent collision of modern and tribal forms.

    For Abu Dhabi, Mr. Nouvel conceived of his classical museum as a watery warren of buildings, plazas, alleyways and canals evoking a small city floating on the sea. A shallow lacelike steel dome nearly 600 feet in diameter hovers over the complex, shielding it from the heat and allowing a delicate pattern of light to filter down to the open-air courts.

    The dome recalls traditional mosques and perhaps the enormous geodesic dome that Buckminster Fuller once proposed erecting over Lower Manhattan, a delicate container meant for the rich cultural mix throbbing underneath. It’s as if Mr. Nouvel has fashioned a contemporary Venice, a remarkable expression of the creative magic that can arise when East and West collide.

    Although the development company has approached several art institutions about lending artworks to the museum, most notably the Louvre in Paris, its mission is still relatively vague. To accommodate the need for flexibility, the complex is conceived as a series of interconnected galleries whose sequence can be easily reconfigured depending on the scale and nature of an exhibition. Mr. Nouvel also envisions the art spilling out onto the alleyways and courtyards, from sculpture to mosaics.

    Mr. Gehry’s Guggenheim, planned for a choice site at the tip of the island, is also conceived as a series of galleries loosely arranged around open-air courtyards, a bit like a souk. But the similarity between the two museums ends there. Passing through a glass atrium, visitors will enter a court enclosed by an enormous cone-shape wind tower. A series of conventional galleries are stacked loosely around the court. Two big warehouse-like galleries spill outward from there, interspersed by several cone-shape exhibition spaces that are tipped on their sides and open to the surrounding landscape.

    The mix of conventional and oddly shaped galleries harks back to the design for the Guggenheim Bilbao. But like all of Mr. Gehry’s best work, the design draws inspiration from its immediate context. The cone-shape galleries, which he says are derived from traditional Islamic wind towers, will draw air up through the interiors, cooling them in the summer heat. Their curved forms, which might be fashioned from alabaster or a high-tech fabric, vaguely evoke traditional Bedouin tents.

    Mr. Nouvel and Mr. Gehry have ingeniously harnessed local architectural traditions without stooping to superficial interpretations of historical styles. Intrinsically their designs acknowledge that the flow of culture between East and West has not always been one-sided. If they convey nostalgia, it is for a belief in the future.

    Ms. Hadid’s design for the performing arts center springs from the complex nature of the site rather than an exploration of cultural memory. Her building will punctuate the district’s cultural main axis, which runs from the site of the future national museum to the waterfront, and offers a sweeping view of Abu Dhabi’s existing skyline.

    Looming aggressively over the water’s edge, the structure’s taut glistening form calls to mind a gigantic snake, its tail tapering off toward the national museum. Ms. Hadid describes the complex as a system of entwined branches with four concert halls trapped inside them like luscious fruit.

    The belly of the main hall rises into the air, with a waterfront promenade passing directly underneath. At the intersection of the promenade and the main axis, a large public court is crowned by a towering atrium, a potent contrast with the cocoonlike halls.

    Of the four designs presented so far, Mr. Ando’s design for the maritime museum seems the feeblest. A stylized stone block that stands in the middle of an enormous reflecting pool, its arching form and cavernous interiors look like an apparition from the ’70s. And the proposals for the biennial pavilions, designed by an array of younger talents over the past month, are a mixed bag ranging from inspired to clumsy.

    Yet overall it is heartening to see Western architects engaged in seeking a balance between the brute force of global culture — its ruthless effacement of differences, its Darwinian indifference to the have-nots — and the fragility of local traditions.

    A half-century ago the modern forms exported by American and European architects were mostly uniform expressions of the triumph of Western modernity. Today most serious practitioners are willing to acknowledge that cultures are forever evolving, and subject to new interpretation.

    The question is whether the creative momentum of the individual designs can be maintained in the cultural district over all. Though still in the early stages, the master plan is a disappointment. It represents nothing so much as an outmoded 19th-century planning formula, — an axial Beaux-Arts scheme with hotels, marinas and cultural monuments sprinkled along the edges. The meandering canal, which was obviously added as an afterthought, is a weak attempt to soften the design’s rigid geometries.

    But for Abu Dhabi’s cultural planners the ultimate challenge lies in taking a hard look at the global role of the arts. The world has changed radically since the completion of the Guggenheim Bilbao 10 years ago. The old cosmopolitan models — the avant-garde Modernism of mid-century Beirut, the intermingling of Muslims, Jews and Christians in Baghdad or Basra in Iraq — are unraveling. Once considered great tapestries of human experience, those cities are either riven by internal conflict or, like their Western counterparts, risk being transformed into sanitized theme parks.

    More and more, large-scale cultural developments are being used to promote that transformation. At their most cynical they can conjure architecture’s function as a tool of Western propaganda during the cold war, the trade shows and expos packed with symbols of suburban affluence.

    This issue is especially resonant in the Middle East, where the basic choice is sometimes presented as embracing a sterile brand of modernity or slipping back into the Middle Ages.

    In this context the two most promising elements of the Abu Dhabi plan may be the least developed ones — the national museum and the arts school — since both have the potential to engage a new generation of Arabs in a complex cultural conversation.

    As for the Guggenheim, the Louvre and other Western institutions involved in the project, they need to show they are serious about a deeper kind of cultural commitment. For a start they could set up permanent curatorial staffs here to plan ambitious programming rather than lending minor Renaissance masters or second-tier Rauchenbergs and Turrells. Ideally those museum positions will one day be filled by trained Arab graduates.

    Otherwise we are simply pushing around pretty cultural commodities — and reinforcing the cultural rifts we claim to be dismantling.

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by finnman69 View Post
    Do they really need a 320,000sf Guggenheim (Bilbao knockoff) museum? Do they have enough art to fill that? How about cut 100,000sf and buy some better art.
    Are they allowed to have graven images?

  6. #6
    Forum Veteran MidtownGuy's Avatar
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    The East has plenty of art. They'll fill this building same as any other museum gets filled. With cash, except faster than our museums do things, because they have the BIG bucks and ain't afraid to spend 'em. The masterpieces housed there will be nothing to look down our noses at.

  7. #7

    Default probably right

    Quote Originally Posted by MidtownGuy View Post
    The East has plenty of art. They'll fill this building same as any other museum gets filled. With cash, except faster than our museums do things, because they have the BIG bucks and ain't afraid to spend 'em. The masterpieces housed there will be nothing to look down our noses at.

    just seems like an awfully huge museum

    the new MOMA is 630,000sf

  8. #8

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    A large 'cultural' district could just about make that town soemthing intersting to visit.....

    All they need now is to build decent, old-style connective tissue of walkable streets between all those towers they're building....

    Where is Al-Duany when you need him?

  9. #9

    Default the planning in this area looks much better than Dubai

    Quote Originally Posted by Luca View Post
    A large 'cultural' district could just about make that town soemthing intersting to visit.....

    All they need now is to build decent, old-style connective tissue of walkable streets between all those towers they're building....

    Where is Al-Duany when you need him?

    Dubai's planning looks like this

  10. #10

  11. #11

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    Abu Dhabi Lures Western Museums
    BY KATE TAYLOR
    February 1, 2007

    The future of the art museum may be found not in America or Europe, but in the United Arab Emirates.

    Or so it might seem from the planned cultural district on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Yesterday, the architect Frank Gehry and the director of the Guggenheim Foundation, Thomas Krens, were in Abu Dhabi to present Mr. Gehry's design for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, one of five cultural institutions that are to be the star attractions in the proposed district. The others are a classical museum, to be designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel (and possibly to bear the name of the Louvre); a maritime museum designed by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando; a national museum; and a performing arts center designed by Zaha Hadid.

    The Tourist Development Investment Co., a corporation created by the Abu Dhabi tourist authority, will finance the construction and operation of the Guggenheim and the as-yet-unnamed classical museum. What they will get in return — museums of the future, or franchises of globalized brands — remains to be seen.

    Reached in Abu Dhabi, Mr. Krens declined to say what the partnership with TDIC will mean for the Guggenheim. "They will not take advantage of us, and we don't take advantage of them," Ms. Krens said. "It's like a marriage. We're providing a lot, and we will get a compensatory balance, but that's not why we're doing this. It's just a smart thing for everybody."

    Mr. Gehry, also speaking by phone from Dubai, sees the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi as an opportunity to push the architecture of museums a step further than he did in Bilbao, Spain, with his iconic design for the Guggenheim there. "Whatever you think of Mr. Krens," Mr. Gehry said, "he has pioneered the direction for museums." In the face of a decade-long trend for building "neutral white boxes — and, unfortunately, the Museum of Modern Art fell into that trap," he continued, "Tom has pioneered and stuck his neck out. His vision for this place is about the next steps. That could be incredible, and it could be incredible for these people to be the beneficiaries of that kind of thinking. There's a lot of potential. Will we realize that? I don't know."

    On one level, the development of the cultural district is the latest instance of centuries of exchange between nations with wealth and nations with cultural prestige. In the 19th century, after all, American industrial tycoons swept across Europe, buying up art for our fledgling museums.

    "After the Civil War, a number of wealthy Americans began to travel, and they gathered up the objects of great beauty and great value and brought them to America," the author of a biography of J.P. Morgan, Jean Strouse, said. In the 1880s, in almost every major city in the Northeast, they began building museums." The exportation of the Guggenheim to Abu Dhabi "is just another example of that phenomenon that has been going on for centuries," she added.

    But the expansion of the Guggenheim and possibly the Louvre (which is still in discussions with the TDIC) to Abu Dhabi is a little bit more complicated than the 19th-century drain of European art to America. The United States is involved in a war in the region, a fact to which Mr. Krens has alluded in his statements about the planned museum. ("The American government is spending a million dollars every four days in Iraq," he told Le Monde. "Give me a month of that money and I will build exceptional cultural centers in four Middle Eastern countries.") Will the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi be a tool of cultural imperialism, or of diplomacy? Or will it be neither?

    "It's presumptuous to think that you can build a museum that would change the world, but we're going to find out what power this has," Mr. Gehry said. "It certainly feels right to have disparate people talking to each other at the level we are."

    Mr. Krens said that in Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim would do "more of what it's been doing, and will do it even better." The Guggenheim's obligation, he said, is "to understand global culture on a contemporary basis, to understand its long historical and traditional tale." Asked about how the museum's collections and exhibitions will be divided between Western and local art, Mr. Krens demurred while invoking the long history of other civilizations.

    "The cultural traditions of China and India combined are probably about 9,000 years. In Western Europe, what are we talking about? Sophisticated culture for 1,000 years?" he said.

    He told a story about becoming fascinated, while on an archaeological excavation in southern Turkey in the 1970s, with an Ottoman architect named Sinan, who was the chief architect for Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century.

    "Sinan was Frank Lloyd Wright's favorite architect," Mr. Krens said. "Frank Lloyd Wright once said that Sinan had covered more space or more area than any other architect in history. I did a motorcycle tour, and I visited every Sinan building that I could visit, from the Balkans to Anatolia. He's one of the greatest architects in history, and nobody in the west would register any recognition."

    One proponent of cultural diplomacy said he thought the planned Guggenheim museum could have a strongly beneficial effect. "I don't think the United States should be shy about presenting the best of our culture in other countries," the president of Marlboro College and former executive director of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, said.

    "Of course, what one always has to be concerned about it is that cultural diplomacy shouldn't only be about exporting one culture to another," she said. "It should be about understanding and collaboration. I would like to see the institutions doing something that shows how much they value the culture of the country they're in. With a twoway-street approach, a project like this can do a lot of good."

    A historian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bruce Mazlish, said the Guggenheim's expansion helped frame the question of what a global museum might be.

    "In the last couple of hundred years, museums have fundamentally been there to help develop a national consciousness, a national identity," Mr. Mazlish said. "It's only now that we have to think, Gosh, if we're moving out of that [into a global consciousness], then what purpose should a museum serve? And Abu Dhabi is an interesting case, because they are a global city."

    The editor of the World Policy Journal and author of "The Plundered Past: The Story of the Illegal International Traffic in Works of Art," Karl Meyer, saw another potential virtue in creating global — rather than merely universal — museums. "The globalization of art opens a window to the possible rethinking of a whole range of cultural restitution issues," Mr. Meyer said. "It would be a wonderful thing, for instance, if the British Museum had a branch in Athens, and the Elgin marbles could be shown there. The extent to which you can globalize these institutions increases the possibility of a solution to these issues."

    But there are, of course, skeptics about the wisdom of exporting American culture. "It's people here who would like to think that if they send this stuff to the other side of the world, it's going to have some impact," the art critic Hilton Kramer said. "I think the other side of the world isn't the slightest bit interested."

    And although, in Mr. Kramer's opinion, the outside world hasn't gained, we have still lost: "Before they started to expand, the Guggenheim was one of most influential and important modern art museums in the world," he said. "Since their expansion, their importance has totally disappeared. They have no influence. They don't attract any artistic interest. I assume they must be making money out of it, but their stature and influence as a museum have totally evaporated."

    http://www.nysun.com/article/47795

  12. #12

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    March 7, 2007
    The Louvre’s Art: Priceless. The Louvre’s Name: Expensive.
    By ALAN RIDING


    A computer image of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel. The building is expected to cost about $108 million to build, and will include art from all eras and regions, including Islamic art.


    An image of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, scheduled to open in 2012.

    PARIS, March 6 — What’s the price of a good name?

    How about a cool $520 million?

    That is the amount that Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, agreed Tuesday to pay to attach the Louvre’s name to a museum that it hopes to open in 2012. And there is more: in exchange for art loans, special exhibitions and management advice, Abu Dhabi will pay France an additional $747 million.

    Controversy over the Louvre Abu Dhabi has been swirling in France for the last three months, with critics charging that the French government is “selling” its museums. But only now have the full details of the nearly $1.3 billion package been disclosed.

    For Abu Dhabi, the deal is an important step in its plan to build a $27 billion tourist and cultural development on Saadiyat Island, opposite the city. The project’s cultural components include a Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a maritime museum and a performing arts center as well as the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

    For France the agreement signals a new willingness to exploit its culture for political and economic ends. In this case, it also represents something of a payback: the United Arab Emirates has ordered 40 Airbus 380 aircraft and has bought about $10.4 billion worth of armaments from France during the last decade.

    The agreement was signed on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi by the French culture minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, and the president of Abu Dhabi’s tourism authority, Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon al-Nahayan. Henri Loyrette, president of the Louvre, joined the many senior French museum officials in attendance.

    The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel as a 260,000-square-foot complex covered by a flying-saucer-like roof, is expected to cost around $108 million to build. Planned as a universal museum, it will include art from all eras and regions, including Islamic art.

    The project will be overseen by a new International Agency for French Museums that is to include the Musée d’Orsay, the Georges Pompidou Center, the Musée Guimet, the Château de Versailles, the Musée Rodin, the Musée du Quai Branly and the Louvre among its members. This agency is also expected to seek new international partners in the coming years.

    Still, it was inevitable that the focus of attention would be the renting of the Louvre’s name. It was this that upset many French traditionalists, including 4,700 signers of an online petition objecting to the accord. But it was also the Louvre brand that Abu Dhabi most coveted to add prestige to its ambitious Saadiyat Island plan.

    “It’s a fair fee for the concession of the name,” Mr. Loyrette told Agence-France Presse in Abu Dhabi. “This tutelary role deserves reward. It’s normal.”

    Apart from paying $520 million to the French agency for the use of the Louvre name for 30 years, with $195 million to be paid within one month, Abu Dhabi has also agreed to make a direct donation of $32.5 million to the Louvre to refurbish a wing of the Pavillon de Flore for the display of international art.

    This gallery, to be ready by 2010, will carry the name of Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, the founder and longtime ruler of the United Arab Emirates, who died in 2004.

    Abu Dhabi will also finance a new Abu Dhabi art research center in France and pay for restoration of the Château de Fontainebleau’s theater, which will be named after Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the current president.

    For a government-owned cultural institution in France to carry the name of a corporate or foreign donor is also a first and may well raise eyebrows here. In the past, for instance, the Louvre has turned down offers of financial help from philanthropists who asked that galleries be named after them in return.

    France is profiting handsomely from this deal: in exchange for $247 million, it will rotate between 200 and 300 artworks through the Louvre Abu Dhabi during a 10-year period; it will be paid $214.5 million over 20 years for the management expertise provided by its new museums agency; and it will provide four temporary exhibitions a year for 15 years in exchange for $253.5 million.

    In a telephone interview from Abu Dhabi, Mubarak Al-Muhairi, the deputy chairman of the emirate’s tourism authority, dismissed rumors that the new museum would reject loans or exhibitions from France including Christian religious art or depicting, say, nudity. “In principle, there are no restrictions,” he said, “but both sides will agree on what is shown.”

    He said that the authority’s hope was that the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which is being designed by Frank Gehry, would open by or soon after 2012, with the other parts of the cultural center to follow.

    He added that while Abu Dhabi is expected to spend around $520 million during the next decade on assembling its own art holdings, “it is our intention to build the collection gradually so as not to disturb the market.” In this, the French museums agency is also expected to play an advisory role.

    In a statement, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan said the accord reinforced Abu Dhabi’s vision of becoming “a world-class destination bridging global cultures.”

    In a message read at Tuesday’s ceremony, the French president, Jacques Chirac, said the arrangement “sealed a partnership with the world’s most visited and well-known museum.”

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  13. #13

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    Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog - art
    My Abu Dhabi adventure
    Frank Gehry
    March 5, 2007 12:26 PM

    I've just turned 78, but I hope I'm not stuck in a groove like some old long-playing record. One of your British journalists thinks so; he described my recent buildings as "crude curlicues". If you know who he is, get him to try on some concrete overshoes for size. I'll send them over . . .

    Our big new project is the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim. We've done the designs and now we're waiting for the final go ahead, any time soon. This really is like nothing we've done before. I say "we", by the way, not just meaning me and Tom Krens [the director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation], but everyone at my studio; there are 170 of us now, and one of the things I've had to think about, like Norman Foster's been doing in London, is what direction the office takes in the future.

    I'm fine, by the way, but I'm not getting any younger, and I don't want to hang a kind of creative albatross around the neck of my team; I don't want them stuck with a legacy they feel they have to follow. I like experimenting; I want them to.

    One thing the Abu Dhabi museum won't be is Bilbao-lite. Bilbao has been very successful, but it's also a worry for me; can Tom and I pull it off again? Is it asking too much?

    Abu Dhabi's going to be very different - a take on a traditional, spread out, organic Arab village or town. Not literally, but it'll have the equivalent of streets and alleys, souk-like spaces and plazas, some shaded and others covered. It'll be the biggest Guggenheim yet. There'll be fresh air and sunlight, and we'll be bringing in cooling air through a modern take on traditional Middle Eastern wind towers. Of course, the core of the building, or complex, will need to be air-conditioned, but this won't be a hermetic building; it'll be an adventure, a kind of walk through a town with art along the way.

    It's going to take four years to build, so I'll be 82 by the time we're through - it better be good! It's going to be nothing like the new Moma in New York, by the way; that's like a big, shiny department store.

    You could ask - why hire an architect from LA to work in the Arabian desert? Well parts of California are not so very different with a desert landscape coming up against the sea; although, ours is more brown, theirs bright white.

    I'm really excited by the level of intelligent engagement by the local leaders in Abu Dhabi although there's still a big discussion to be had about the planning of new buildings. What they want from the architecture, by me, by Zaha Hadid and others, is a "string of pearls", stretching to the water to form a new "cultural quarter" to attract tourists; but, there's a bit of tendency to want a nice new building from each of us without enough thought about how they'll all hang together. I'd like to be more involved in the urban planning, but that's a lot to ask; you can't just say, especially when you've just arrived, hey, I'd like to redo your city.

    Anyway, we're still busy in central LA where we did the Disney Concert Hall, trying to pull that piece of city together; it takes times to get buildings, especially a cluster of new buildings, to work together as well as they should.

    Abu Dhabi does throw up some very particular issues for the Guggenheim and the display of art. I don't think we'll be allowed to display nudes, and there are all sorts of concerns about the way women are allowed to be shown. But, I think this an interesting moment in doing something to bridge the cultures of the US and the Middle East with real dialogue; I'm learning here, which is great, and I think we can shape an original building that is as much Abu Dhabi as me. Maybe it'll have some "curlicues", too.

    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/art/2007...adventure.html

  14. #14

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    another example of these boom cities in the mid-east with all the money in the world cant create their own cultural landmarks.

  15. #15

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    What will be in the museum(s)? The representation of human images is verboten in Islam.

    Go to an Islamic bookstore and check out the picture books for kids. No humans in the pics.

    I don't mean this as a criticism. I'm actually interested in Islamic teachings/philosophy. I just think it would be difficult to pull this off given that human images are definitely Haram (forbidden), even by most "modern" Muslims.

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