Abu Dhabi named as home of Gehry's new Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Foundation has taken another step towards becoming a global modern art franchise by announcing plans to build its largest museum yet in Abu Dhabi, to join the existing collections in New York, Venice, Bilbao, Berlin and Las Vegas.

The new building, which will be designed by the Canadian-born architect Frank Gehry, is due to open in 2012, and budgeted to cost $200m (£108m). It will go up on a specially built extension to Saadiyat Island, next door to Abu Dhabi, one of the seven city states that make up the United Arab Emirates. The museum will cover an area of 30,000 sq m, a quarter as large again as the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

The deal, signed at the weekend by Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim's director, and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, will be Abu Dhabi's first major venture into the world of arts. It underlines the ambitions of a state best known for oil, upmarket tourism and sun-drenched winter homes for celebrities, to turn itself into a multi-national cultural beacon for the entire region.

"Today's signing represents the determination of the Abu Dhabi government to create a world-class cultural destination for its residents and visitors," Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed said.

This weekend's announcement also seals victory for the museum's director Thomas Krens in the argument over the future of the Guggenheim brand. The philanthropist Peter Lewis stepped down in January 2005 as chairman of the museum, complaining that it should focus its efforts on its home city of New York, "instead of being scattered all over the world". With gifts of $77m Mr Lewis had been Guggenheim's largest single benefactor during his seven years as chairman, and the impact of his departure was unclear. But now an even wealthier donor, a Gulf sheikdom flush with oil money, has stepped into the breach, removing any lingering financial doubts.

Cultural ones, however, remain - not least the complaint that Guggenheim museums are more notable for the buildings themselves than the works of art they house. The Crown Prince says merely that GAD, as Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is to be known, will be a prime attraction in a new $27bn "upscale cultural district" and will be endowed with a "prestige" collection of exhibits. The total cost of the venture is said to be at least $400m.

The deal has several other intriguing aspects. For one thing, it links a foundation created in 1937 by Solomon R Guggenheim, one of the most prominent Jewish-Americans of his era, with an Arab kingdom that still refuses diplomatic ties with Israel. The new museum will also be designed by a Jewish architect.

Mr Gehry's concept for the Bilbao Guggenheim, with its gleaming, jagged swirls, has been acclaimed as the most spectacular example of the Deconstructivist school of architecture. But the Abu Dhabi site, on an artificial spit jutting out into the waters of the Persian Gulf would require him "to invent a different kind of architecture". It would, he told the Associated Press, have to "play off the blue water and the colour of the sky and sea and sun".

A separate question is whether the museum will contain nude works, which could upset Muslim traditionalists. But that was "a minor issue," Mr Krens said. "Our objective is not to be confrontational, but to engage in a dialogue." Abu Dhabi is unlikely to mark the end of the Guggenheim's expansion.

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home