Jonjo Ambers Visits: Abu Dhabi’s Louvre

Image from CSM in "With Louvre Abu Dhabi, France displays new vision for global influence" at

The moonlight sparkled across the Persian Gulf as the raucous crowd moved towards the Middle East’s new artistic centerpiece. Sheikh Khalifa, who commissioned and oversaw the $1 billion project, greeted me with open arms: “We are very proud to put ourselves on the cultural map. We couldn’t think of a name on our own so we just thought, ‘fuck it, let’s just copy the Parisians!’”

As we made our way through the gallery, I was struck by the variety of art, acquired from all over the world.  “Make very expensive galleries, not war,” the Sheikh chuckled. “I think that’s how the saying goes, at least!”

Besides the various loans from Paris, and the finest art from across the Islamic world, there were also several “rethinks” of old favorites.

Jamal Bin Salam, a former art student, admitted the new rendition of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa lost the magic of her wry smile under the Hijab. “At least the eyes still follow you around,” he admitted, somewhat forlorn.

The replica of the famous Venus de Milo, however, elicited many shocked responses. One of the visitors from Saudi Arabia, Nura Khan, claimed that the missing limbs had a different resonance for her people: “Amputated hands? I think naughty Venus must have been stealing! It is Hudud, after all.”

The protests about ‘alleged’ workers’ right’s abuses during the building of the billion-dollar gallery (Oh, how we laughed!) were drowned out to the sound of clinking glasses of non-alcoholic champagne. Lucky I had packed my hip flask!

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