Germany follows France to the Gulf…

Museums in Berlin, Munich and Dresden have entered into a collection-sharing agreement with Dubai

DUBAI. Germany has entered into a collection-sharing agreement with the government of Dubai. Under the terms of the arrangement, announced last month, the State museum associations of Berlin, Munich and Dresden will play a key role in Dubai’s “Universal Museums” project, which aims to bring together collections and expertise from leading arts institutions around the world.

The newly formed Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (DCAA) describes the scheme as “the world’s largest consolidated museum”.

German museum directors—Peter-Klaus Schuster (Berlin), Dr Reinhold Baumstark (Munich) and Dr Martin Roth (Dresden)—signed an agreement with Dr Omar Bin Sulaiman, managing director of the DCAA, in Dubai last month.

The deal was brokered by Michael Schindhelm, cultural director of the DCAA, who was previously CEO of the Berlin Opera House from 2005 to 2007.

Scott Desmarais, the DCAA’s director of strategy and business develop­ment, says the Authority is also in talks with the British Museum, the Getty and the Hermitage, among others, re­garding their participation in the “Universal Museums” initiative.

“The United German Museums of Berlin, Dresden and Munich want to realise this challenging museum project in an international dialogue with museums in London, New York, Moscow, St Petersburg and Beijing,” said Dr Schuster in a statement.

The Universal Museums will be located in the Khor Dubai area, a 27 kilometre-long stretch along Dubai’s Creek, that will be home to museums, performances spaces, artist studios and galleries.

Mr Desmarais said that Dubai wants to establish partnerships rather than branded franchises. Each museum is likely to have its own structure hosting temporary exhibitions, with a common area devoted to shows that draw on the museums’ combined collections.

The first joint German exhibition will be held in Dubai in 2009 in a performing and visual arts centre designed by Rem Koolhaas in Creek Park.

Further details about the centre, which is expected to be built within a year, are to be presented at “Dubai Next”, an exhibition opening on 4 June at the Vitra Museum in Weil am Rhein. The show is organised by the DCAA and co-curated by Koolhaas and Jack Persekian, director of the Sharjah Biennial.

A spokeswoman at the Pinakothek der Moderne museum in Munich told The Art Newspaper: “As far as I am aware, German museums will not receive a fee for this

collaboration with the DCAA.” This has not been independently confirmed.

This partnership is yet another example of a cultural project initiated by the cash-rich Gulf States in an attempt to re-brand themselves as cultural destinations.

The New York-based Guggenheim Foundation is scheduled to open a branch in Abu Dhabi in 2012 in a building designed by Frank Gehry.

Meanwhile, the Louvre is set to receive an endowment fund of e400m from the government of Abu Dhabi for opening an outpost there by 2012-13 designed by Jean Nouvel. The two projects are the first phase of a $27bn “cultural district” on Saadiyat Island.

Dubai insists its plans complement rather than compete with Abu Dhabi’s mega projects. Without the oil wealth of Abu Dhabi, Dubai’s booming economy is built on trade, tourism and property, but while its new commitment to the arts seems serious, it still appears to expect return on its investment in culture.

Despite the competitive spirit between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, there are signs that the two emirates are beginning to work together on some cultural projects, including the possibility of the first UAE pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009.

Antonia Carver

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