Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), the tourism asset management and development arm of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), has concluded a framework agreement with the New York-headquartered Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation for the operation of the planned Guggenheim Abu Dhabi modern and contemporary art museum, which will be built in the Cultural District of the emirate’s Saadiyat Island.
The agreement, which was signed in New York by His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan and William Mack, Chairman, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, has a strong mentoring and education element that will see a 250-300 person Museum Operating Body, which will include UAE nationals, undergo a variety of training in a wide range of competencies.
“This inclusive approach is very important to us because our aim is not only to provide a world-class cultural asset for the emirate, but also to foster a culture of arts appreciation and create new career prospects for our nationals. To achieve this, we have to embark on a continuous educational programme and we are doing this with the Foundation’s support,” said Sheikh Sultan.
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, to be designed by internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry, will be the world’s largest Guggenheim with its proposed area of 450,000 square feet and the only one in the Middle East. Staff in Abu Dhabi will undergo training as curators, curatorial assistants, registrars and specialist handlers and specialised security. The Guggenheim Foundation will also collaborate with the Museum Operating Body on, and implement, an educational programme suitable for UAE schools and universities.
Together with other planned cultural institutions for Saadiyat Island, including the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi universal museum, a performing arts centre, a maritime museum and a park with arts pavilions, the Cultural District forms the largest single ensemble of world-class cultural facilities ever built.
The agreement signing was followed by a celebration event in New York attended by leading cultural and political figures from the city and an official delegation from Abu Dhabi.
The gathering was given a progress report on Saadiyat Island and its Cultural District from Lee Tabler, CEO, TDIC, and an update on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi from Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.
Sheikh Sultan told the gathering: “We in Abu Dhabi are fortunate in the vision of our leaders – Their Highnesses Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Both are solidly committed to the Cultural District and its role in creating a global capital with its own rich cultural heritage.
“Becoming a world-class cultural centre fits precisely into our government’s overall Vision 2030 strategy – but it has to be a centre that will be highly regarded and well respected on a global scale. We want to be inclusive in appeal, rather than exclusive.”
“When we set out on our journey towards becoming a global cultural destination, we recognised we needed expert advice and world-class partnerships. We believe we have found both in the Guggenheim Foundation and that together, we can make a real difference to the international cultural landscape,” added Sheikh Sultan.
The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s mission is to promote the understanding and appreciation of art and architecture from a broadly international perspective, while sustaining our heritage and traditions.
“While the museum will operate at a world-class standard, it will also reflect, and emphasise a specific identity derived from the cultural traditions of Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, and the greater Arab and Islamic world,” said Sheikh Sultan.
“Saadiyat Island Cultural District is uniquely visionary because it is inclusive, democratic, and both respectful of difference and excited by it,” said Thomas Krens, Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. “That leaders of Abu Dhabi have initiated and nurtured such a project, and have brought it to this point, is in itself a breathtaking achievement, and testifies to the power of the link between culture and economic development.”
The operating agreement has been established for twenty years - five years for design development and construction, plus the first fifteen years of museum operations - and may be renewed in 2027. Principal elements of the agreement include:
formation of a joint administrative and curatorial entity comprised of a Museum Operating Body and the Guggenheim, to oversee the creation and management of the new museum;
creation of mentorship and training programmes of the UAE personnel as an integral feature of the museum and its mission;
allocation of an acquisition and commissioning budget over the next 20 years to build a unique and extraordinary modern and contemporary art collection for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi;
formation of a special committee appointed by the government of Abu Dhabi to implement the acquisition and commissioning programme jointly recommended by the Guggenheim and the Museum Operating Body;
development of a visionary special exhibitions programme, including exhibitions developed specifically for and shown exclusively in Abu Dhabi and exhibitions of recognised masterpieces, as well as regional artists and trends;
development and implementation of an educational programme for UAE schools and universities; and
establishment of a Guggenheim Museum Abu Dhabi office in New York City, in quarters on Hudson Street.
“In agreeing to this framework we are committed to assembling the best team from the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum Operating Body,” said Sheikh Sultan. “This team will have the richest and most diverse range of ideas and the courage, independence and commitment to explore ideas and give them shape and produce a strong and resonant artistic programme. The scholarly quality and diversity of this programme will reflect and strengthen the museum’s own unique stature as a pre-eminent, truly trans-national institution.”
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