Here is a visualization of Jean Nouvel’s Louvre, planned for the culture island here. It is, well, I would call it sublime but it is the opposite, really. Sublime suggests transcendence, a change of state from solid to airy, whereas Nouvel’s whole conception is submersion in the shade. You move in the mottled light beneath the netted, perforated dome into a sub-world where most of the structures are half immersed in the water of the Persian Gulf. What a strange and appropriate metaphor!
One way to think about the iteration of the Louvre that are being planned here is to imagine three speeds of exhibition. The slowest is that of the permanent collection (yes, they are actually collecting for these sites); the mid-tempo is the continual cycling of works of art from the motherships for extended loans; and the prestissimo of the program of temporary exhibitions that will bring works of art from all sorts of other places through here. (The Guggenheim will only have two speeds because its collection will be focused on contemporary art, not “classical modern” as at Guggenheim New York.) The “permanent collections” brought together here will also be available for loan to temporary exhibitions elsewhere.
The dominant idea is “the dissemination of the real.” Works of art have to be real, authentic, to be valuable. They can’t be copies of Rembrandts. That is the premise of the art museum as an institution. And yet they have to be made to move, at something like the rate of the digital images and video signals we rely on every day. So we have an effort to “speed up” works of art. These museums are designed to be places of the dissemination of the real.
On the way out of the exhibit we came across another exhibit, incongruously displayed in the hotel lobby. Another maquette in fact, another exercise in futurology, in this case a future that never came to pass. Could it be? Yes, it is! It’s the model for Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International!
Typically enough, I had a moment of art-world déja-vu: I had seen this very model a year ago in the Shafrazi Gallery in New York. (This is a model replica of the original of 1920, built in Sweden in the 1960s.) I guess it is on the exhibition circuit. But, oh, how the exhibition industry trades in ironies! As the text next to the exhibit (cribbed from the Shafrazi press release) helpfully explains, the projected structure was intended to stand 1300 feet (tall as the Empire State Building!) and to serve as the headquarters of the Communist International in the birthplace of the Russian Revolution, Petrograd. The slant of 23.5 degrees corresponds to the tilt of the earth’s axis. The massive structure was never built. Utopia never came to pass. But now (for a limited time only) you can admire the model on the site of the new projected utopia, born of the alliance of culture and capitalism.