Tuesday 24 April 2018

French President Macron joins Arab kings to unveil Louvre Abu Dhabi

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron look at a piece of art as they visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron look at a piece of art as they visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, with his wife, Brigitte, are received by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, left, and Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at the official opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
(Front from L-R) Chairman of Abu Dhabi's Tourism and Culture Authority, Mohamad Khalifa al-Mubarak, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron attend the inauguration of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in Abu Dhabi, UEA, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Moroccan King Mohammed VI (2ndL) look at the painting titled "La belle Ferronniere" by Leonardo Da Vinci as they visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum during its inauguration in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
Chairman of Abu Dhabi's Tourism and Culture Authority Mohamad Khalifa al-Mubarak (L) and Brigitte Macron (C), wife of the French president, look at art work as they visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum during its inauguration in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
Chairman of Abu Dhabi's Tourism and Culture Authority Mohamad Khalifa al-Mubarak (L) and Brigitte Macron, wife of the French president, look at art work as they visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum during its inauguration in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron look at a piece of art as they visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
French President Emmanuel Macron, and his wife, Brigitte, are welcomed by Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, left, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, right to the official opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and French architect Jean Nouvel attend the inauguration of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum during its inauguration in Abu Dhabi, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
(From L-R) Chairman of Abu Dhabi's Tourism and Culture Authority Mohamad Khalifa al-Mubarak, French President Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte, and Marie-Christine Saragosse, president of France Medias Monde, visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum during its inauguration in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin
French President Emmanuel Macron visits the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum during its inauguration in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
Brigitte Macron (L), the wife of the French president, Moroccan King Mohammed VI (C) and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa speak together as they visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum during its inauguration in Abu Dhabi, UAE, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin

Jon Gambrell

French President Emmanuel Macron joined Arab kings and other rulers on Wednesday to inaugurate the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a decade after his country signed a billion-pound agreement to share the name and art of the world-famous museum.

Envisioned by France's then-president Jacques Chirac as a means to fight extremism with art after the September 11 attacks, the museum is intended to be a bridge between East and West, with Buddhist, Christian, Islamic and Jewish artefacts.

"My friends, here starts the fight of the generation, for our youth," the French president said.

"This fight we are fighting with a spirit of conquest because from our side we represent the beauty of the whole world."

The elite guest list, however, showed the limited adoption of liberal ideals in the Middle East since the 2011 Arab Spring.

Mr Macron was joined by only one other democratically-elected leader at the event, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani.

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron attend the inauguration of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in Abu Dhabi, UEA, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron attend the inauguration of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum in Abu Dhabi, UEA, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool

The two kings at the event, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Moroccan King Mohammed VI, both have faced unrest at home over their rule.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled Oman since overthrowing his father in a bloodless 1970 coup, had been invited but sent his culture minister instead.

Mr Macron and his wife, Brigitte, walked up to the museum with Abu Dhabi's powerful Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The hereditary rulers smiled and greeted the couple, an honour guard standing at the ready nearby.

France has grown closer to the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, in the years since the September 11 2001 attacks.

French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, with his wife, Brigitte, are received by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, left, and Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at the official opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, with his wife, Brigitte, are received by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, left, and Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at the official opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

It opened a French naval base in 2009 at Abu Dhabi's Port Zayed, which is visible just across the water from the museum's home on Saadiyat Island.

French warplanes and personnel also are stationed at Al-Dhafra Air Base, a major Emirati military installation outside Abu Dhabi that is home to some of the 5,000 American troops stationed in the country.

With architect Jean Nouvel at his side, Mr Macron entered the first gallery of the museum on Wednesday night.

Mr Nouvel pointed out the skylight within it, which mirrors the Louvre Pyramid and is similar to others through the museum. As the Abu Dhabi ceremony took place, the Louvre Pyramid in Paris projected images of the art on display at the new museum.

Sheikh Mohamed, who also serves as the UAE's vice president and prime minister, said the museum represented the UAE's "cultural pride".

"The Louvre museum will represent the best of the East and the West and it's going to be a meeting point for those who love beauty and culture from all over the world," he said.

The artwork on display offers a brief history of the world and its major religions - without shying away from Judaism in a country that does not recognise Israel.

However, the conservative mores of Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital that is more buttoned-up than freewheeling Dubai, can be seen in the relative absence of pieces depicting nudity.

Abu Dhabi officials have not disclosed how much it cost to build the museum.

What is known is that Abu Dhabi agreed to pay France £400 million for the use of the Louvre name for the next 30 years and six months, plus another £572 million to hire French managers to oversee the 300 loaned works of art.

A centre at Paris' Louvre now bears the name of the late UAE president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which was also part of the deal.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News