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    Berlin Museums Chief Attacks Louvre for Abu Dhabi Venture

    Date: 23 Feb 2007 | | Views: 3918

    France's decision to lend both the Louvre's name and its art to a planned museum in Abu Dhabi will lead to a "commercialization'' of national treasures, Berlin museums chief Klaus-Dieter Lehmann said.

    Abu Dhabi's "artificial global art capital in the desert sands'' will attract only "jet-set tourists'' and won't contribute to international cultural exchange, Lehmann, president of the Prussian Culture Foundation, wrote in an article in today's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

    The Louvre is "acting like a company with a clearly defined strategy called profit maximization,'' Lehmann wrote. "It is to be feared that fast financial gain will transform museums'' into "free-floating goods dependent on the laws of the market, with no relation to cultural context.''

    France plans to loan artworks from its national collections to the Abu Dhabi museum, which has yet to be built, and lend the Louvre's name for a set period of time. The proposal has sparked protests, with more than 4,500 people signing a petition against what they term a pawning of French cultural heritage.

    In his article, Lehmann wrote that the transaction is worth about 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) to France.

    The culture complex, scheduled to open in 2012, has attracted four prize-winning architects to design museums and a performing arts center on Saadiyat Island, 500 meters off the Abu Dhabi coast. It includes the world's latest and largest Guggenheim Museum, to be designed by the U.S. architect Frank Gehry.

    "The Guggenheim Museum's participation is not surprising,'' Lehmann said in his article. "What is surprising is the willingness of the Louvre to define a French variety of the Guggenheim strategy as the new French cultural policy.''

    Lehmann said the agreement threatens to "corrupt'' the system of loaning artworks between museums and may result in a reduction in the number of exhibitions that depend on the sharing of expertise and works.

    "The cultural context is no longer decisive - rather, the spectacular individual works, the Mona Lisa effect,'' he wrote.

    By Catherine Hickley, Bloomberg

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