Abu Dhabi's Louvre displays treasures at the Paris one

Wed Apr 30, 2014 1:17pm EDT
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By Johnny Cotton

PARIS (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi hopes eventually to lure tourists to its own branch of the Louvre museum, but pending its opening in 2015 some of its treasures have gone on display at the place that inspired it - the Louvre in Paris.

   "Birth of a Museum: Louvre Abu Dhabi" is a presentation of works from across the globe, part of the Abu Dhabi museum's permanent collection which has been built up with the help of advisers from the Paris Louvre.

Highlights include a gold bracelet decorated with lion heads crafted in Iran nearly 3,000 years ago, a Virgin and child painting by Giovanni Bellini and paintings by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

Backers hope the pieces, once returned to Abu Dhabi, will help create a cultural hub in the Gulf Arab state.

   There they will bask under a giant dome by architect Jean Nouvel in a 64,000-square-meter (690,000-square-feet) museum, one of three museums planned on an island near the center of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. They form part of a wider plan to boost the tourist credentials of a country heavily dependent on oil.

Although the deal to open a Gulf branch of the Louvre originally sparked some concern that France was signing away its cultural heritage, such worries were brushed aside as French President Francois Hollande inaugurated the exhibition in Paris on Tuesday.

    "For France, the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi is an exceptional building site," Hollande told the project's backers, including a delegation from the UAE.

"It's the biggest cultural project that we're undertaking abroad. It's also the most symbolic manifestation of the tight partnership which binds us to the United Arab Emirates."   Continued...

French President Francois Hollande (C), Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan (2ndL), president of the Abou Dhabi authority for tourism and culture, French architect Jean Nouvel (3rdR), and French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti (2ndR) look at a model of the new Abu Dhabi Louvre Museum as they visit the exhibition "Birth of a museum", at the Louvre museum in Paris April 29, 2014.  REUTERS/Alain Jocard/Pool