The story of the fate of the collections in the Louvre museum goes on. Those who have been following it know that over two years ago the French government set into motion a plan to lend substantial portions of the collections to other museums for long periods of time - often years, in exchange for ample payment.
The most controversial part of the plan involved a lucrative deal with the Arab Emirate of Abu Dhabi, where the French government and museum officials would set up a branch of the Louvre for what was likely to be a limited number of the wealthiest tourists.
Last December a petition was circulated signed by members of France's artistic community in hopes of preventing the transfer to an oil-rich dictatorship of artworks originally designated as property of France.
Apparently the petition has thus far failed to move the authorities. Several English-language websites, including the BBC, now have articles on the transfer to the Persian Gulf. This article from Salon Beige reveals more details:
The website La Tribune de l'Art where the petition against the Abu Dhabi project is posted is censored by the Arab Emirates. The question of censorship of the type that could affect the exhibits that open under the banner of the "Louvre" has until now been minimized. At the Ministry of Culture they insist that this "Emirate is one of the few acceptable ones in the Middle East. That an Arab country desires to encounter Western culture is an opportunity not to be missed...In the negotiations the Emirates have never requested the slightest censoring of the works of art..."
In reality, the French government is the first to recognize the existence of "censorship" in the Emirates. If you go the page on "advice to travelers" at the website of the French Embassy, you will find:
"Even if it is applied less rigorously than in Saudi Arabia, sharia law is the basic reference for civil and criminal law."
In another paragraph we learn too that any image "representing nude persons is prohibited."
That is why France took the step, before the transfer of the art, of making it known that only an acceptable selection of works would be considered - those that excluded crucifixions, for example.
There were two comments to the article, one from a Christian traveler who had been to Abu Dhabi during ramadan and who had felt no hostility whatsoever on the part of the inhabitants. He feels the French government is over-reacting by not sending scenes of the crucifixion.
Another reader feels it's all about money: the Louvre needs cash, and even though France does not have oil, it does have oil paintings.
My feeling, of course, is different. If the French government didn't have such a heavy welfare burden, there would be ample funds for the museums. Do State museums in France ever collect donations from private individuals or enterprises?
Another question: Which paintings are being sent? Is there a catalog online?
Three related articles from Galliawatch:
Art - A New WMD?
Petition for the Louvre
The BBC has these two articles:
The Louvre staff on strike, due to stress from too many visitors.
The Louvre in Abu Dhabi - an excellent update on the situation.
Pictured is one of my favorite paintings. Whenever I went to the Louvre I would linger in front of it, almost in disbelief. Back then it was next to La Joconde, which (to me) was less interesting than this one. Often I went to the Louvre just to look at it:
The Virgin and Child with St. Anne
Leonardo da Vinci,
Oil on Wood, circa 1510
From Web Gallery.