Sunday, July 09, 2006


There He Goes Again: Krens in Abu Dhabi

Now it's the sheiks who crave Guggenheim chic.

The Associated Press story about the planned Frank Gehry-designed Middle Eastern Gugg, filed by Jim Krane yesterday from Abu Dhabi, was far more illuminating and flavorful than today's NY Times report, filed from New York, which didn't even provide cost figures for the project.

According to AP, the 322,920-square-foot building, scheduled to open in 2012, will cost about $200 million; the combined cost of the building and its art acquisitions would be about $400 million. (Does Carol Vogel read the wire services?)

The art acquisitions could pose sticky censorship problems: "One of the first dilemmas facing Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, dubbed GAD [!?!], is whether to exhibit nude works that might offend conservative Muslims," according to AP. Thomas Krens, director of the Guggenheim Foundation, "said the topic had yet to be discussed."

Another cultural conundrum set forth by AP is that GAD would bring "a museum named for a powerful Jewish-American the capital of an Arab country [the United Arab Emirates] that refuses diplomatic ties with Israel."

The ARTnewsletter suggested on May 9 that the Guggenheim had likely received from Abu Dhabi some $2 million. That's the usual fee for its "feasibility studies" for projects under consideration.

The "memorandum of understanding," just signed, probably also includes provisions for a whopping "participation fee," to enrich the Guggenheim's coffers. For Bilbao, that amounted to $20 million; for the now-abandoned Guggenheim Rio project, it was to have been $40 million.

One huge advantage of making a deal with the United Arab Emirates is that "they have the resources to do it," in Krens' words. He can ill afford yet another ousted outpost, scuttled by political or financial realities.

According to the U.S. State Department's background paper on the United Arab Emirates, they have "huge proven oil reserves....In 2005, the U.A.E. produced about 2.5 million barrels of oil per day--of which Abu Dhabi produced approximately 94%."

GAD-zooks! With his undeniable diplomatic skills, can Krens get us some oil-for-art?

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