PICK OF THE WEEK:: From our Nov/Dec issue: "Shifting Sands"
The French have a curious epithet for the Louvre Abu Dhabi: le Louvre des sables. Translated as “the Louvre in the sands,” this oddly exoticized sobriquet for the fledgling museum, due to open in December 2015, has thoroughly peppered the French media since 2007, when the intergovernmental deal was sealed between France and Abu Dhabi. Even president François Hollande used it, in April to fire up his inaugural address at the “Birth of a Museum” show, the second iteration of the exhibition showcasing the Emirati museum’s growing permanent collection, held in Paris’s Musée du Louvre through July. Le Louvre des sables: from a French point of view, the name projects the familiar into the faraway; deposits the institutionally solid amid uncertain nature; suggests something not so much built as mysteriously risen to the surface. It hints at replication: another Louvre (like other Guggenheims and Tates) has cropped up in some hazy elsewhere—a space that is unfixed, unknown, perhaps even unknowable. Le Louvre des sables: vaguely imperialist, it evokes a far-flung outpost on the fringes of hospitable lands, newly conquered by culture.