Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, announced jointly with France last week that a branch of the Louvre will open in Abu Dhabi in 2012.

Under a 30 year accord signed last week in Abu Dhabi (see picture), the Louvre will be paid a tidy sum. It totals $US1.3 billion in payments, fees and donations by Abu Dhabi.


Following is a breakdown of revenues drawing on facts mostly from the New York Times:

  • US$525 million for the Louvre brand name, with $US195 million payable in a month;
  • US$247 million for art loans – rotation of 200 to 300 artworks during a 10-year period;
  • US$214.5 million over 20 years for the Louvre’s management advice; and
  • US$253.5 for special exhibitions – four temporary exhibitions a year for 15 years.

Abu Dhabi will also make a direct donation of $US32.5 million to the Louvre to refurbish a wing of the Pavillon de Flore for the display of international art. It will also finance a new Abu Dhabi art research center in France and pay for restoration of the Château de Fontainebleau’s theatre.

The accord news, revenue and donations barely hint as to the legal work required to execute such licensing, loan, management and exhibition arrangements.

Libraries, galleries and museums such as the Louvre have special contracting and intellectual property licensing needs.

A new museum can trigger the need for legal advice for many additional players. They include artists, their estates, art insurers, display designers and architects.

Some idea of the variety of the required legal advice is suggested by the following list of transactions I’ve worked on over the years:

  • trade mark registration of a museum name;
  • drafting a template artwork loan-in agreement for a museum;
  • resolving Aboriginal claims regarding images in museum murals;
  • advising multimedia developers on copyright law for digitisation of paintings and other gallery artwork for reproduction on CD-ROMs and Websites;
  • licensing photos for reproduction (charging a fee though the photos were out of copyright);
  • display software and hardware development and installation contracts for interactive multimedia displays in a museum in Malaysia; and
  • gallery exhibition contracts, including for an artist exhibiting in a gallery in Singapore.

Abu Dhabi’s cultural accord with France will bolster its Dhs.100 billion (US$ 27 billion) tourist and cultural development on Saadiyat Island, opposite the city. The building to house Louvre Abu Dhabi is designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.

Also on Saadiyat Island will be museums, art galleries and performing arts centres planned for the Cultural District, including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi contemporary art museum, which is estimated to cost US$400 million to build. For happiness all around (“saadiyat” means happiness in Arabic) the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will be be designed by the American architecture, Frank Gehry.

Predictably, the New York Times take on the Louvre Abu Dhabi story contains this paragraph: “In this case, it [the deal] also represents something of a payback: the United Arab Emirates has ordered 40 Airbus 380 aircraft and has bought about $10.4 billion worth of armaments from France during the last decade.”

I’d prefer to observe that economic developments and Louvre Abu Dhabi are shifting metropoles, and some art, back closer to regions from where that art originated. The trade is global. In 2006 for a fee of US$6.4 million the Louvre agreed to lend hundreds of artworks to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia under a three-year agreement (2006-09).

Background on Abu Dhabi and the Louvre


Abu Dhabi is the capital of the emirate of the same name. It is by far the largest of the seven emirates, comprising Abu Dhabi, Ajmān, Dubai (capital Dubai), Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. Collectively they form the country known as the United Arab Emirates, as profiled in an official Website UAE Interact. One prominent UAE business is Emirates Airlines. Based in Dubai, its clever perception-shifting sponsorship strategy in Australia has included the If film awards, Collingwood Football Club and the Emirates Melbourne Cup.

The Louvre had 8.3 million visitors in 2006, up from 7.5 million in 2005. It of course has one of the greatest collections of Near Eastern and Islamic art in the world, including the bust of Hammurabi (pictured), the Babylonian law maker in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) about whom I wrote in Business law: yesterday.

Noric Dilanchian