Sep 21 2016

Amid controversies, Louvre Abu Dhabi appoints new director Manuel Rabaté

by Ysabelle Cheung

MANUEL RABATÉ, newly appointed director of Louvre Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.

The highly-anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi made two major announcements on September 20, despite growing concerns over the delay of the opening. The museum’s governing body Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority confirmed the appointments of the inaugural director, Manuel Rabaté, and deputy director, Hissa al-Dhaheri, two figures with extensive experience at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. French museum veteran Rabaté joins after his previous work at Musée du Louvre in Paris and his most recent role as CEO of Agence France-Muséums, an organization specifically founded in 2007 to aid the Louvre Abu Dhabi in its cultural endeavors. Emirati arts figure al-Dhaheri, on the other hand, was formerly programs manager at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and has previously taught at Zayed University.

With years of construction delays and billions of dollars already attached to its name, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has faced criticism and scrutiny from the public before its physical space has even been completed. Originally slated to open in 2012 on the Emirate’s Saadiyat Island, the satellite outpost of the 223-year-old Musée du Louvre, Paris, was agreed upon in 2007 by French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon al-Nahyan, with the former handing off a cool USD 1.3 billion to the latter in exchange for the association of the Louvre’s name. The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum, both of which are currently under construction, are set to join the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island, in forming what the UAE government hopes will be a significant cultural district.

At the time of Rabaté and al-Dhaheri’s appointments, the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is expected to open in 2017. Both are tasked with filling the Jean Nouvel-designed space with the museum’s still-building collection of modern and ancient art, as well as future loans from French institutions such as Musée du Louvre and Centre Georges Pompidou.

Ysabelle Cheung is managing editor at ArtAsiaPacific.