French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahayan formally launched the "desert Louvre" project to mark the start of construction of the museum, expected to be completed by 2013.
AFP - France and the United Arab Emirates formally launched the "desert Louvre" project on Tuesday, bringing the iconic cultural name and its tourist pulling power one step closer to the oil-rich Gulf.
Visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahayan attended a ceremony in a luxury UAE hotel to mark the start of construction of the museum, expected to be completed by 2013.
They also inaugurated an exhibition on "Talking Art: Louvre Abu Dhabi," at which works of art from the Louvre and other French museums will be on display until July 2. Also on show are some of the new museum's first acquisitions.
Under a 30-year agreement, Abu Dhabi will pay 400 million euros (555 million dollars) for the Louvre brand name and for hundreds of artworks loaned from the Paris museum for periods of between six months and two years.
The new museum on Saadiyat ("Happiness") island off Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, has been designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.
It will be housed in a 24,000-square-metre (258,000-square-foot) building topped by a dome inspired by traditional Arab architecture.
"The Abu Dhabi Louvre project is unique and will remain so. It is not an attempt to duplicate the Louvre," Henri Loyrette, president of the Paris Louvre, said at Tuesday's ceremony.
Abu Dhabi's will be "a new museum, the bearer of two cultures and two traditions," he added.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of five museums to be built on Saadiyat island, a vast complex of luxury hotels, golf courses, marinas and private villas set for completion in 2018.
The complex is part of Abu Dhabi's plans to secure a larger slice of the Gulf's booming tourist industry.
However the development has come under fire from Human Rights Watch, which in a report focused on Saadiyat this month accused the Abu Dhabi authorities and global institutions of failing to tackle abuse of foreign labourers.
"It's very important to be vigilant about security conditions, comfort and respect for the workforce," Nouvel told reporters on Tuesday.
"The problem today is that architects are no longer the complete masters of a project the way they were 50 years ago ... but we are still very vigilant. On each site we ask to see workers' accommodation."
Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company, the government arm charged with developing Saadiyat, rejected claims of abuse on the island.
Date created : 2009-05-26