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Abu Dhabi to create ‘Desert Louvre’

New museum pays $525 million for name, art

BAGHDAD — Over the objections of some Gauls, French and Emirati officials have signed a deal that will see a “desert Louvre” established as part of a vast cultural and tourism complex being created on an island off Abu Dhabi.

Under the 30-year agreement, Abu Dhabi will pay $525 million for the Louvre brand name and for the loan of hundreds of artworks from the Paris museum for periods of up to six months.

The deal, signed in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 7, was hailed by Emirati tourism minister Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun al-Nahayan as “an historic step.”

“The Louvre is the cornerstone for our Saadiyat cultural project. Without the Louvre, we would not have the courage to plan such a huge project,” Sheikh Sultan said at the signing.

The deal was inked by Bruno Maquart of France-Museums and Sheikh Sultan at a ceremony also attended by French culture minister Christine Albanel.

The project has enraged many in France, who accuse the Louvre of “selling its soul” by lending out its prized collections overseas.

A protest petition has been signed by some 5,000 people, among them scores of museum directors, art historians and curators.

The plan was approved last October by the French parliament in the face of fiery criticism from opposition socialists and communists who dismissed it as a commercial gimmick.

The museum will be housed in a 260,000-square-foot building designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of five museums planned for Saadiyat island, which will also feature luxury hotels, marinas and golf courses.