Friday, January 19, 2007

Art for sale

This story started picking up steam early December, and it shows no sign of letting up. Basically, the old-guard French museum establishment is up in arms because the Louvre is the latest in a small group of French museums (including the Pompidou Center opening a branch in Shanghai) to spread out abroad. It has signed an agreement to license its name and loan items from its collection to a new museum in Abu Dhabi. The use of the "Louvre" name itself will cost 400 million euros, according the the contract that was leaked to Le Monde; other museums should eventually strike similar deals, and it all could bring $800–$1 billion to French museums.

Curators and art figures have been signing petitions and raising a ruckus, claiming France is "selling its soul" and art cannot be treated as crassly as wine or those cute little Vuitton
bags Abu Dhabi residents also buy by the truckload.

While one can legitimately question the specific choice of an authoritarian, clanic emirate for a Louvre outpost, it bugs the hell out of me to see those defenders of the artistic patrimoine dump on the exportation of French museum brand names in general.

What crock!

So it's great to endlessly whine about US-led globalization and how it stifles French culture, but when we have a chance to actually take advantage of globalization—and, it seems to me, in a manner that makes cultural and financial sense—everybody's screaming bloody murder. How stuck-up, reactionary and downright foolish can the French art elite get?

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