In 2007, France and the United Arab Emirates signed a partnership of a very specific nature: creating an offshoot of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital city. The Louvre in Abu Dhabi is now about to open, and there are many reasons why this international collaboration is a very interesting example of what can be done to favour art and culture in today’s world, and why it may well serve as a model to follow. Yet, the project was not always supported by everyone in the art world, and it took some vision to support its founding principles.
Christophe Mazurier was one of the art enthusiasts to defend the idea that cooperation is the key to success. The businessman and philanthropist has always backed the collaboration between public and private actors, and the necessity for art patrons and donators to be included in museum’s new strategies for the future. The Louvre Abu Dhabi project is a perfect illustration of how collaboration can help redefine a strategy: the Emirati branch was not designed as a copy of the original Louvre but as a project with all its singularity and specific identity. This allowed the Louvre in Paris to redefine its own goals and priorities and set up on a new path for the future – and that’s the first crystal clear reason why the project is already a success.
The second reason is its existence in itself. To follow up on Mr Mazurier's thoughts, it is the vivid realisation of what unique results cooperation can bring. As an enthusiastic art patron, he himself sees the museum as unique – and the museum’s order for original artwork is an example of this uniqueness. Artists Giuseppe Penone and Jenny Holzer have been commissioned to create pieces that reflect the museum’s identity and purpose: the symbiosis between continental Europe and the Arabian Gulf. The first exhibition to come will emphasize on cultural dialogue between Europe’s long-lasting heritage and the innovative transformations and art practices emerging in the Middle East.
The third reason of its success is not cultural per se, but lies in the side-effects of the project. First and foremost, the project has enabled two countries to deepen their ties and strengthen their diplomatic relationship. Art has often been dreamt by many visionaries as a means to achieve this, and we have a clear example of it here. Another positive side-effect is for the city of Abu Dhabi: the Louvre has helped it regain a place on international maps. The city is now as well-known as its rival Dubai, if not better.
This diplomatic success is an embodiment of the benefits of international dialogue. Along with first-rank educational projects such as the Sorbonne’s new campus in Abu Dhabi, the museum is part of a long-term cooperation between France and the Emirates, brought together by one ambition: cultural excellence. Thanks to the many masterpieces transferred from Paris to the Louvre in Abu Dhabi and the integration of brand-new pieces, the UAE has reinforced its position as a cultural hub in the Middle East. It also opens new educational and cultural opportunities to a flourishing and booming area.
This proves Mr Mazurier right: cultural cooperation with a vision is indeed a fantastic driver, and it helps achieve success in a lot of fields – culture, education, and diplomacy, for instance. According to Mr Mazurier, cultural sponsoring is a key to raising interest in art and opening the public’s minds to new artists and new visions of what art can be. His vision is that an education wouldn’t be complete without artistic awareness nor without cultural open-mindedness. This is one of the reasons why making private and public money work hand-in-hand offers a competitive and demanding way to attract and to reveal new talents to the public.