Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Louvre Lite

I haven't kept up and so don't know if it ever went anywhere (it could be up and running, for all I know), but a while ago I heard of plans to build in/near Orlando a replica of Key West...you know, a sanitized version of the Southernmost Florida town, in the middle of Florida...for those tourists too fussy to subject themselves to the potential for real life to occur in KW or the extra hours of driving/flying to get there. Personally, I feel that anyone who's in too big a hurry to drive through the Keys, at least once in their lives, especially at sunset, won't ever get what's so special about Key West anyway, so why bother?

I was reminded of this theme-park absurdity (it'd be like building a replica of Brooklyn outside Philadelphia), when reading this news brief on plans to replicate the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi. From the
Henri Loyrette, the president and director of the Louvre, has responded to growing criticism of the museum’s new policy of establishing footholds abroad, arguing that the Louvre cannot ignore the “internationalization” of museums. Last month three prestigious figures of the French art world, including Françoise Cachin, former director of French museums, attacked the Louvre’s current three-year loan program to the High Museum in Atlanta as well as a proposal to create a new “Louvre” in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. While the Louvre will receive $6.4 million for its Atlanta project, news reports suggest Abu Dhabi is willing to pay $500 million to $1 billion for the Louvre’s name, expertise and the loan of artworks. A French art Web site (latribunedelart.com) has since organized a petition opposing these operations. Mr. Loyrette, who was reportedly at first unenthusiastic about the Abu Dhabi plan, told Le Monde yesterday that the Louvre’s mandate was not merely to exhibit art. “It also has a scientific, educational, social and diplomatic mission,” he said. Feeding the debate is the absence of detailed information about the Abu Dhabi plan. The Culture Ministry, which is handling negotiations, has described the dossier as “top secret.”
Now, I'm on record as opposing the imperialistic tendencies of the Guggenheim and other cultural institutions primarily because I believe what it takes to sustain such global expansions inevitably waters down their central mission to the point of uselessness. It changes their mission, essentially. The Bilbao branch, for example, is not about Peggy or Solomon or their visions...it's about Krens and his vision.

OK, so perhaps the board of a museum selects a director specifically to ensure he/she continues to adapt their vision to keep the institution relevant. I get that. But I don't believe that the expansion and increase in number of physical locations today is as much about the core values, which shouldn't change IMO, as it is about acquiring power. I get that going global is the model corporations feel they must follow to stay competitive, and I get that cultural institutions are, not totally unlike corporations, innately highly competitive, but there's an aspect of corporate ambitions that makes me want to shower, and there's a big part of globalism that fires up the militant individualist in me, and I don't like associating either of those feelings with museums I like.

But more than that, there's a significant overall aesthetic loss with these satellite locations, IMO. Like the Orlando-based replica of Key West, the Abu Dhabi-based Louvre, regardless of how many billions they can afford to spend to build it, won't have the history, and thus for me, nor the charm or power of the original. It will always be Louvre Lite. A knock-off. A watered-down version. Why the fine residents of Abu Dhabi don't have enough civic pride to launch their own world-class institution remains open for debate, I guess, but suckling at the teat of the Louvre's reputation is so remarkably tacky I doubt they have a word for it in French.


Anonymous ml said...

Maybe the French should insist that any Louvre located outside of Paris should shrink 5% for every 1000 kilometers away from its current location. If you get far enough away, then Duchamps museum in a suitcase could be called the Louvre.

1/09/2007 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Maybe instead of "watered down" it could just be on the water... did you see this?

1/09/2007 09:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Answering this question, Abu Dhabi has just launched its own Authority of Culture and Heritage; it is taking care of all Heritage and Cultural aspects in the Abu Dhabi. One of its missions is to promote Abu Dhabi Culture and heritage to the world and to create world wide markets to sell its cultrual products. There are a lot of efforts are being done to meet the objectives. On the other hand, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is working on its won objectives to promote the Abu Dhabi as a tourism spot in the region, with the mission of promoting Abu Dhabi as a capital of cultural in the region.

As a person from Abu Dhabi, I understand the French point of view, but I really would love to see the Louve in Abu Dhabi.

1/10/2007 05:51:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for the thoughtful response, Anonymous. I don't mean to put you personally on the spot, but as a person from Abu Dhabi, wouldn't you rather see a home-grown museum grow to the stature of the Louvre, rather than have that namebrand transplanted there?

1/10/2007 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

One thing that I like though, about the multi-Guggenheims, is that it facilitates the travelling of shows from Spain to New York to Germany.

I often read of great shows that only travel through Europa or through America, but when something hits big at the Guggenheim, sometimes (with hope) it travels across the sea.

So if the Louvres in the Emirate would mean a facilitation of having treasures of the arabic world travel (perhaps in that new fantastic Zaha Hadid building), than I am not entirely against it, as contracts and affiliations are harder to build between different museums.

This said I also agree with Edward's sentiment, and frankly, there is pride enough in defining such a term as "emirate", so why not just associate a museum with it.


Cedric Caspesyan

1/10/2007 08:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward_, I agree with you for that, but at the moment we are talking about Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority to promote Abu Dhabi as cultural and tourism spot.

Here in Abu Dhabi, these kinds of thoughts are being discussed, as the local identity is being affected with the number of tourism coming to the country and being affected with the number of expats who are coming to live and invest in this country.

A well known local museum brand like the Louver to show our culture will not be an idea Abu Dhabi Cultural and Heritage haven't thought of.

Here in Abu Dhabi we talk about what tourists do really like, they don't want to see what they already see in their home countries. They absolutely prefer to see the local Arabian and Islamic architecture, culture, tourist attraction, shopping centre and souks. They might want to see the new architecture and the rest, but of course it won't be on their top list.

On the other hand, talks about promoting Abu Dhabi as Cultural and tourism spot, that means there are tourist from Abu Dhabi (internal tourists) and tourist from Asia and the Middle East to be targeted.

1/10/2007 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks again anonymous. So if I understand correctly, the goal of bringing the "Louvre" to Abu Dhabi would be to entice neighboring-state-based tourists, who have a similar culture in terms of architecture and painting and such already at home, and locals to spend money on a museum. Correct?

I see where that's appealing, but do those potential tourists outweigh the number of tourists who'll travel around the world to see a first-class museum that's not a replica? Perhaps they do. Perhaps the money brought in by neighboring-state tourists will help Abu Dhabi build a home-grown museum. I still think the whole idea is a bit too "Las Vegas-y" for the Louvre.

1/10/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Will the museum have a Starbucks?

1/10/2007 12:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me put it this way, Let's say I am from Kuwait, Oman, Sauid or Qatar and I heared that the Monalisa with some arts will be in Abu Dhabi next month. (As part of the exchange policy they might agree on) Don't you think this is very attractive?

1/10/2007 11:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I prefer it has a french coffee shop rather than an American

1/10/2007 11:03:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Yeah, me too, but I was thinking branding and cross-promotion.

Actually, wouldn't it be more 21st century to make the Louvre into an art fair? They could just keep moving it around from country to country. Or maybe even a cruise ship. The Louvre Boat!

1/11/2007 02:55:00 AM  

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