As you may know, Ab* D*abi is determined to make itself a center not only of business but of culture. A Louvre, a Guggenheim, a National Museum, a Performing Arts Center, and a Maritime Museum are being built in somewhat close proximity to one another. You will be able to walk around the shore of the island and visit one after the other. The designers are not only starchitects, but A-list starchitects: they are, respectively, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Zaha Hadid, and Tadao Ando.
In other words, being here now is an exercise in futurology. In two different places (both hotels) you can visit exhibitions explaining the whole vision and project, and see large scale maquettes of the plans for these cultural centers, like this one:
Here is a detail showing you, from nearest to farthest, Hadid’s neo-Futurist Peforming Art’s Center, Nouvel’s spaceship Louvre, and Gehry’s lego-blocks-gone-wild Guggenheim:
The logic is as follows. It is not enough to be one of the richest nations on earth. It is necessary to be a center of culture. Culture is very, very thin on the ground here. There are some interesting remnants from the Neolithic period, but otherwise, for centuries, it has been impermanent dwellings in the desert around here. That is, until the oil boom of the last four or five decades. As the very notion of “culture serving national identity” is a western one, a brand if you will, the tokens of western culture itself need to be imported. Now it happens that western cultural institutions–museums–are very, very strapped for cash. But over the last couple of decades they have realized that they have the ability to leverage their collections, and their auratic brand. And that is what they are doing. So this part of the world gets what it needs–art and cultural cachet–and the western institutions get what they need–cash. It really is that simple. And it may work. The presence of these cultural institutions may really change the landscape here, and alter the profile of this place in the eyes of the rest of the world. What good it does for the western institutions, besides addicting them to a business model of cultural holdings, I’m not sure.
However, apparently all constructions toward this dream have slowed since the downturn…