The planned Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi hit the headlines again recently, with New York Magazine’s art columnist Jerry Saltz, suggesting that Thomas Krens, the director of the Guggenheim foundation is “reckless, destructive, myopic, and misguided.”
As part of their drive to convince the rest of the world of their cultural sophistication, the Abu Dhabi authorities are planning a branch of the Guggenheim museum on Saadiyat island. The museum building, designed by internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry, will dwarf Bilbao’s version, and at a planned 300,000 sq ft, will be the largest Guggenheim museum.
The Guggenheim museum has been accused of becoming the Mcdonalds of the art world recently, and whilst not quite so ubiquitous as the fast food chain, they do seem to be springing up everywhere, from Las Vegas to Bilbao. Having recently visited the Las Vegas version, the thing that struck me was the incongruity of Madame Tussauds, the black jack tables and the Guggenheim jostling for floor space, and a luxury suite at The Venetian includes a 20% discount to the museum and $25 in promotional slot credits. “What do you want to do today dear? Drop some money at the craps table or take in some modern art?”
A couple of other incongruities leap out and ask me if I want fries with that. A Jewish owned museum chain, designed by a Jewish architect? And according to Krens, “Expect all the subjects in the paintings to be clothed. Our objective is not to be confrontational, but to be engaged in a cultural exchange. There are things that we don’t do in New York because we feel that it is not appropriate to do them in this city”
Loosely translated, this means no paintings with naked women or religious themes. But, Dude, like what are you gonna hang on the wall, man?
Some critics have dubbed the project the ‘GuggAbu,’ but personally I prefer the McGuggenheim, it has a nice ring to it. I’ll have a large cheeseburger, two cokes and a super-size McPicasso please.