Abu Dhabi has progressed rapidly from being the sleepy settlement of palm-front huts and Bedouin encampments. Changing tracks from the fishing and pearl-diving trade to oil since it’s the 1960’s, this modern capital has it all; high rises, hotels etc. In the next decade or so it plans to become the cultural hub of the world. To achieve this goal, they are coming up with a glittering multimillion-dollar exhibition in the lobby of the magnificent Emirates Palace Hotel. It would boast four museums, a performing arts center and 19 art pavilions designed by celebrated architects like Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel. The development could include leading cultural lights of the West, from the Guggenheim to the Louvre to Yale University. Though this ambitious project is still to sign on the biggies like Guggenheim on paper, it is just a part of the bigger picture. The cultural center is a part of the $27 billion residential, office and hotel development planned for Saadiyat Island (Island of Happiness) and the 670-acre cultural district is still in the nascent stages.
Many may be skeptical about this modern Arab kingdom embracing the values of Western modernity, but the fact of the matter is that art has no boundaries. You may label this as a tourist/branding exercise, but you can’t take away the fact that art and cultural promotions bridge the many differences in our diverse ethnicity. Thomas Krens, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, known for his campaign to open a dozen Guggenheim branches in places like Singapore, St. Petersburg and Rio de Janeiro (few of which have been built) has been roped in to overlook the building of this project.