PARIS (AP) — The oil-rich United Arab Emirates certainly has the wealth of a first-class nation. Now it hopes to buy in the culture of a first-class nation to the tune of 400 million euros ($550 million).
The Louvre Abu Dhabi will open its doors in December 2015 in the Arab federation — and organizers hope it will put the country with flashy hotels, arid deserts and the world's 7th biggest oil reserves on the map instead for its oil paintings.
But the project has been raising eyebrows among Europeans, who say that culture requires more than just a checkbook.
In Paris, the Louvre unveiled a preview Tuesday of the art that the Abu Dhabi project has acquired since 2009.
French President Francois Hollande inaugurated the exhibition of some 160 works entitled "Birth of a Museum." It includes a 19th-century Yemeni Torah, a 13th-century Gothic Bible as well as a swath of Renaissance and modern masterpieces by artists such as Yves Klein, Rene Magritte and Pablo Picasso.
The generous spending pot has produced a collection as impressive as it is diverse, unafraid to grapple with themes such as sexuality and different religions.
"(We want to) establish Abu Dhabi as a place for cultural tourism," the Louvre Abu Dhabi's assistant curator, Khalid Abdulkhaliq Abdulla, said at the Paris exhibit.
He said the Abu Dhabi Louvre will be the centerpiece of a planned cultural district that will also include a branch of New York's Guggenheim and a national museum.
However, skeptics in France say the nation known for its nouveau riche society can't simply buy its way into being "cultured."
The museum's renowned architect Jean Nouvel brushed off such critics with a Gallic shrug, suggesting detractors are just annoyed or jealous that Europe now doesn't have the money to embark on such costly cultural projects.
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