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An Oasis in the Desert? Issues and Intricacies Concerning the Louvre-Abu Dhabi Museum Expansion

An Oasis in the Desert? Issues and Intricacies Concerning the Louvre-Abu Dhabi Museum Expansion

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Published by: Journal of Undergraduate Research on Mar 27, 2009
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07/03/2014

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An Oasis in the Desert?Isses and Intricacies Concerningthe Lovre-Ab Dhabi Msem Expansion
TAyLOR POuLIN
 You have created a Museum: careully assemble here every masterpiece that the Republic [o France] already possess-es…and let the entire world hasten to deposit its treasures,its curios, its works; and all the documents o its history: letit be the archives o the world.
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Tis statement was penned in 1793 by Comte François Antoinede Boissy d’Anglas to the museum commission in charge o llingthe newly created Musée Central des Arts in Paris – the uture Muséedu Louvre. At the time it was terribly condent, but has become anaccurate description o the museum. Te Louvre does indeed con-tain objects rom all over the world and rom all stretches o time.Symbolically, it holds great cultural signicance or the French, and,as supported by its very long history, holds a seminal position inrepresenting the French national identity. However, recent develop-ments have seen the Louvre taking steps toward national and inter-national expansion, with the latter in particular putting this notiono a unique and intrinsic French identity in jeopardy. Within ouryears rom now, two satellite museums will be created: the rst inLens, a small, industrial city north o Paris, and the second on Saadi-yat Island, o the coast o Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. A satellite o the Louvre built on French soil is not a new con-cept,
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and thus the Lens museum project is relatively uncontrover-sial. However, the French reception o the Abu Dhabi endeavor has
 
journal of undergraduate research
76
been much more critical and understandably so, as the Louvre rep-resents both a structure and a collection that are deeply entrenchedin French cultural and national identity. Te argument in Francerevolves around the motivations o Abu Dhabi in proposing thisexpansion, and the resulting consequences or France. Te ollow-ing will explain the current situation involving France, Abu Dhabiand the Louvre rom historical and theoretical perspectives, as wellas current opinions o French detractors and Abu Dhabian support-ers concerning this project. o these ends, I will begin by analyzingthe history o the Louvre as well as providing a brie history o theearly museum network in France, presenting how the museum hascome into its role as a point o national identication or the French.Next, I will illustrate the present issues concerning the agreementbetween the Louvre and Abu Dhabi, and ollow this with a discus-sion o the Louvre-Abu Dhabi agreement. I will look to the power/knowledge relationship proposed by Michel Foucault to explain pos-sible motivations and issues surrounding the project, as well as thepostcolonial ideas o Homi Bhabha to explain how, in contrast withcolonization o old, the new satellite may be creating a new type o colonization. o conclude, I will set the Louvre’s actions againstthose o the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the State Her-mitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, to determine whether ornot the Louvre should embrace a network o international satellitesin the uture as could be hypothesized by its involvement with AbuDhabi.Te Musée Central des Arts opened its doors to the public on 10 August 1793. Built in 1190 under Philippe Auguste (1165-1223) toserve as a ortress against invading Normans, the structure knownas the Palais du Louvre had served in some kind o royal or deen-sive capacity until the late eighteenth century. Te move in 1793toward an open display o what had ormerly been a collection re-served or royals – built careully by royal ancestors reaching back to François I (1515-1547) – was a bow to the victory o the FrenchRevolutionaries, who had ought against the monarchy or an equal
 
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 An Oasis in the Desert?Issues and Intricacies Concerning the Louvre-Abu Dhabi Museum Expansion
and raternal society. In visiting the museum, the French citizen was to witness the glory o the country exhibited through the now nationally owned cultural treasures displayed there, and ultimately to understand himsel “as a citizen o history’s most civilized andadvanced nation-state.”
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 Indeed, the Louvre’s origin and early development promoted thecountry’s newound reedom, equality, and wealth, oering to theFrench people cultural knowledge as well as the ability to identiy themselves as members o a powerul nation. Te mission o therevolutionaries to open the Louvre to general admission was satu-rated with political undertones. Te goal was twoold: to prove,by successully opening the Louvre to the people, that this newly liberated governmental power was greater than any that had comebeore it, and to educate the people in a manner conducive to theRepublican leanings o the government.
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Andrew McClellan ex-plains the opinion o Revolutionary writer Armand Kersaint, authoro 
Discours sur les monuments publics,
on the eects the Louvre as anopen institution would have or the country: “Completing the Lou-vre, [Kersaint] stated, would demonstrate that the new regime hadaccomplished ‘in several years what ten kings and ty prodigal min-isters had ailed to do in several centuries.’”
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In addition, the gov-ernment promoted a sense o national ownership o all the culturaltreasures the Louvre contained. “Te perception o collective own-ership helped [to] ashion…the ‘republican mold’ and to coner onthe citizen ‘a national character and the demeanor o a ree man.’… At one and the same time, the museum symbolized the stability o the state and the triumph o the people.”
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 Te enormous exhibition mounted in the Louvre at its openingon 10 August – including over 661 objects, mostly paintings, sculp-ture and objets d’art
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– was an important statement about the glory o the arts in France and, in equal measure, about the ability o thegovernment to provide these beautiul objects or the education o the country.

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