Jacques-Louis David, "Napoleon Crossing the Alps" (1803), oil on canvas, 267.5 x 223 cm, Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon (© RMN [Château de Versailles] F. Raux)

Jacques-Louis David, “Napoleon Crossing the Alps” (1803), oil on canvas, 267.5 x 223 cm, Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon (© RMN [Château de Versailles] F. Raux)

The list of artworks that will be loaned by French museums to the Louvre Abu Dhabi has been released. Some 300 artworks are scheduled to travel from France to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the opening of the Louvre outpost, among them paintings by Dürer, David, Leonardo, Titian, Manet, Monet, van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Joan Mitchell, and Andy Warhol. The loans come from 13 French cultural institutions, including the Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Château de Versailles, and Musée Rodin.

Vincenzo Coronelli, Globe (1697), 146 x 107 x 107 cm, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Maps and Plans Department (© Bibliothèque nationale de France, département des Cartes et plans) (click to enlarge)

The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s announcement of the arrangement presents mixed messages. The press release quotes Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, as saying, “Ultimately, we hope to offer visitors a unique experience from a new perspective that underlines the universal spirit of the entire project.” Yet a separate release, spotlighting “some of the most remarkable items” in the loan, reflects a highly Western point of view — a mere nine out of 26 objects come from non-Western countries. The complete list of loan works (a third release) offers a more encouraging picture: alongside a whole lot of Western painting there are objects from Central and South America, Asia, and the Middle East. Still, it’s significant that most of these pieces are three-dimensional objects, and ones that seem to adhere to a very specific narrative that posits the West as the site of art for art’s sake and the rest of the world as home to a more ritualistic and useful kind of art. Then again, the loaned objects are coming from Western cultural institutions, so maybe it’s not that surprising. Joan Mitchell also seems to be the only listed female artist.

Although a Guardian article confusingly describes the loaned works as both “part of a 30-year collaboration” and “join[ing] the permanent collection of Louvre Abu Dhabi,” the actual press release states:

The number of works loaned by French institutions will decrease over a 10-year period as Louvre Abu Dhabi continues to build up its collection. The works will be on show from three months to two years, depending largely on the narrative, the conservation and the preservation requirements of each piece.

The Guardian pegs the value of the loan collaboration at £800m (~$1.29 billion).

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is being built on the painfully named Saadiyat — “happiness” — Island, alongside outposts of the Guggenheim and New York University. The latter two have faced the heaviest criticism recently for the exploitative conditions under which workers are laboring to build the structures, but the Louvre is far from controversy-free.

Leonardo da Vinci, “Woman Portrait,” also called “La Belle Ferronnière,” wood (noyer), Musée du Louvre, Paintings Departement (© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Angèle Dequier)

Pair of gui vessels, China (11th century BCE), bronze, 25 cm, Musée national des arts asiatiques-Guimet, Paris (National Museum for Asian Arts) (© Musée Guimet, Paris, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Michel Routhier)

Mask, Mexico, Basin of Mexico (150–550 CE), black stone, 20 x 18 x 12 cm, Musée du quai Branly, Paris (© musée du quai Branly, photo Hughes Dubois)

Claude Monet, “La gare Saint-Lazare” (1877), oil on canvas, 75.5 x 104 cm, Musée d’Orsay (© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt)

Vincent van Gogh, “Self-portrait” (1887), oil on canvas, 44 x 35.5 cm, Musée d’Orsay (© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt)

Masque anthropo-zoomorphe d’mba (Anthropo-zoomorphic mask of D’mba), Masque d’épaules (Shoulder mask) D’mba, Guinée, Baga (early 20th century) wood, plant fibers, metal, 130 x 55 x 68 cm, Paris, Musée du quai Branly (© musée du quai Branly, photo Patrick Gries, Bruno Descoings)

The Latest

Required Reading

This week, Godard’s anti-imperialism, in defense of “bad” curating, an inexplicable statue, criminalizing culture wars, and more.

Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...