In an open letter dated October 5, 2017, the GLC asked the Louvre to “refund workers’ recruitment fees and wages lost due to criminalization, imprisonment, termination, and deportation of workers who go on strike.” According the Mannes-Abbott, the museum has yet to respond.
Another embarrassment for the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the recent publication of Alexandre Kazerouni’s book Le miroir des cheikhs, musée et politique dans les principautés du golfe Persique (Sheikhs’ Mirror: Museum and Politics in the Kingdoms of the Persian Gulf), reviewed in the November issue of The Art Newspaper. Kazerouni claims that some of the monies used to fund the museums on Saadiyat Island come from the Offset Program Bureau (later renamed the Tawazun Economic Program), a fund established in 1992 to collect the sums that states selling arms to the UAE are required to invest in the country. According to Kazerouni, assets from the OPB were used to create what’s known as the Mubadala investment fund in 2002. In 2009, the Mubadala investment fund bought into the TDIC, which oversees Saadiyat Island and its museums. This would mean that monies gained as a result of the arms trade—possibly, even, of arms deals with France—might have been spent on the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is surely hoping some of this contentious background will be eclipsed by its stunning inaugural display, which gathers around 300 loans from 13 French institutions, as well as 300 pieces from the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s fledgling collection. According to Jean-François Charnier, Scientific Director of Agence France-Muséums (the French agency in charge of the Louvre Abu Dhabi), the exhibition is a reflection on what he calls “inter-culturality.” The idea, he explained, was to “de-compartmentalize” the museum’s traditional departments and foster a new kind of museology “consistent with globalization.”
What this means in practical terms is that, instead of having, say, Greek galleries, Roman galleries, 18th-century painting galleries, and so on, the curatorial team in Abu Dhabi has devised a roughly chronological display with objects grouped by function, as well as formal and symbolic affinities.