A planned Middle East outpost of the Guggenheim remains unbuilt as the Louvre Abu Dhabi readies for its opening, with the New York-based museum acknowledging that “no contract has been awarded” to build the $200-million project over a decade after its launch.
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, envisioned in 2006 as a deconstructive jumble of Arabic features and modern design by architect Frank Gehry, was to sit near the Louvre outpost on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island. But the Guggenheim told The Associated Press that nothing has been done to the site since a foundation was poured in 2011.
“There is no construction on Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and no contract has been awarded,” the Guggenheim said in a statement.
It's a far cry from the fanfare that greeted the museum's launch in 2006, at a ceremony attended by then-Guggenheim director Thomas Krens and the late actor Dennis Hopper. Krens, Hopper, and actors Laurence Fishburne and Jeremy Irons even took a motorcycle trip across the United Arab Emirates.
But since leaving his post, Krens has offered a more frank discussion about the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi. Speaking to a podcast in March, Krens suggested the delay in building the museum could be in part because “it may not be such a good idea these days to have an American museum, essentially with a Jewish name, in a country” that didn't diplomatically recognize Israel.
The Guggenheim declined to address Krens' comments.
“At a time when greater understanding among peoples and cultures is especially urgent, the Guggenheim Foundation remains committed to Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and its transformative potential as a catalyst for exchange and for expanding the narratives of art history,” it said.
It referred questions about when the museum would be built to Abu Dhabi officials. Public relations officials at an event Wednesday to announce the Nov. 11 opening of the Louvre outpost declined to make any Emirati officials available afterward to answer questions, after earlier complaining about The Associated Press' coverage.