Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
|Guggenheim Abu Dhabi|
A computer generated image of the planned Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
|Location||Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE|
|Cost||US$200 million (estimated)|
|Design and construction|
Adamson Associates (Executive Architect)
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is a planned museum, to be located in Abu Dhabi, UAE. On July 8, 2006, the city of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, announced it had signed an agreement with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York City to build a 30,000-square-metre (320,000 sq ft) Guggenheim Museum on Saadiyat Island. It will be the largest of the Guggenheim museums. Architect Frank Gehry is designing the building. Work on the site has begun, and after delays, completion is now expected in 2017. The museum collection will reflect Islamic and middle-eastern culture.
The museum is part of a larger complex of arts and cultural institutions that is being built on the island intended to appeal to international tourists.
The museum will be located on Saadiyat Island, just offshore of the city of Abu Dhabi. Saadiyat Island's Cultural District will house the largest single cluster of world-class cultural assets in Abu Dhabi. These will include: the Zayed National Museum, to be designed by United Kingdom-based construction company Foster and Partners under the direction of Lord Norman Foster; the Louvre Abu Dhabi art museum designed by Jean Nouvel; a performing arts centre designed by Zaha Hadid; a maritime museum with concept design by Tadao Ando and a number of arts pavilions. Guggenheim director Thomas Krens indicated that "The Middle East is one of the world's most important emerging regions in terms of contemporary culture."
The Guggenheim press release notes that "Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development & Investment Company...will own the museum", while "[t]he Guggenheim Foundation will establish and manage" its program. William Mack, Chair of the Guggenheim Foundation, said: "It is with a keen sense of historical precedent and with an abiding commitment to cultural exchange as a bridge to international understanding that the foundation enters into this agreement to establish a Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi."
Abu Dhabi's crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, indicated that the "signing represents the determination of the Abu Dhabi Government to create a world-class cultural destination for its residents and visitors.
Design and construction
The museum's design is by architect Frank Gehry. The lighting was designed by L'Observatoire International. The building is part of a massive project on Saadiyat Island to "create an exhibition space intended to turn this once-sleepy desert city along the Persian Gulf into an international arts capital and tourist destination." The museum is under construction on a peninsula at the northwestern tip of Saadiyat Island adjacent to Abu Dhabi. Surrounded on three sides by the Persian Gulf, the site also acts as a manmade breakwater that protects the island’s northern beaches. Gehry noted, "The landscape, the opportunity, the requirement ... and the possible resource to accomplish it opened tracks that were not likely to be considered anywhere else. The site itself, virtually on the water or close to the water on all sides, in a desert landscape with the beautiful sea and the light quality of the place suggested some of the direction."
The museum is planned, at 320,000 square feet (30,000 m2), to be the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation's largest facility. It is designed to accommodate approximately 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2) of exhibition space. Gehry's design features exhibition galleries, education and research space, a conservation laboratory, a center for contemporary Arab, Islamic and Middle Eastern culture, and a center for "art and technology". Inspired by traditional middle-eastern covered courtyards and wind towers, used to cool structures exposed to the desert sun, the museum's clusters of horizontal and vertical galleries of various sizes are connected by catwalks and planned around a central, covered courtyard, incorporating natural features intended to maximize the energy efficiency of the building. The largest galleries will offer a grand scale for the display of large contemporary art installations. Parts of the building will be four storeys tall with galleries stacked atop each other. The museum is intended to be a centerpiece in the island's plan for contemporary art and culture".
The completion date was pushed back from 2011 to 2013 to 2015, after the emirate cancelled contracts with concrete suppliers, and again to 2017 "amid more difficult economic times". The museum is expected to house modern and contemporary collections that will focus on Middle-Eastern contemporary art. It will also display special exhibitions from the foundation's main collection.
The museum will form its own major collection of contemporary art and will also exhibit masterworks from the Guggenheim Foundation’s global collections. All works to go on display at the museum will "respect Abu Dhabi's culture and national and Islamic heritage," the foundation said in a statement. "Our objective is not to be confrontational, but to be engaged in a cultural exchange," said Thomas Krens when asked how the boldness of contemporary art can be reconciled with conservative Muslim values. "The Guggenheim implicitly regards all contemporary cultures and their traditions as potential partners in the field of aesthetic discourse - we are both respectful of difference and excited by it," he said. "We also believe that the Middle East is one of the world's most important emerging regions in terms of contemporary culture." The collection is being gathered and this process is ongoing.
Human rights controversies
In early 2011, over 120 international artists urged a boycott of the museum, citing reports of abuses of foreign construction workers, including the arbitrary withholding of wages, unsafe working conditions and failure of companies to pay recruitment fees to laborers. Additional controversy has arisen from the international human rights community and artistic community over Abu Dhabi's and the UAE's longstanding policy of jailing and deporting resident HIV sufferers, most of whom contracted the virus in the UAE, with a lifetime ban from ever being able to return to the country.
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