Operating Framework for the New Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum


Mentorship and Training of the United Arab Emirates Nationals Is Key Element of Joint Accord

November 13, 2007—Officials representing the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation today provided details of the operating framework for the new Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
Museum. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the 450,000 square foot museum of modern and contemporary art will be built on Saadiyat Island, adjacent to the main island of Abu Dhabi city, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Information about the new museum’s operating framework was announced in New York at a gathering of cultural, political, and business leaders. The announcement was made by His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, Tourism Development & Investment Company and Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, William L. Mack, Chairman, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and Thomas Krens, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

The operating agreement has been established for fifteen years—following five years for design development and construction—and may be renewed in 2027. Principal elements of the agreement include:


• formation of a joint administrative and program entity to oversee the creation and management of the new museum;

• establishment of an Abu Dhabi museum staff projected at 250 to 300 persons, including UAE nationals;

• creation of mentorship and training programs of the UAE personnel as an integral feature of the museum and its mission;

• establishment of an acquisition and commissioning program to build a unique and extraordinary modern and contemporary art collection for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum;

• formation of a special committee appointed by the government of Abu Dhabi to implement the collection acquisition and commissioning program jointly recommended by the Guggenheim and the museum operating body;

• development of a visionary special exhibitions program, including exhibitions developed specifically for and shown exclusively in Abu Dhabi and exhibitions of recognized masterpieces, as well as regional artists and trends;

• development and implementation of an educational program for UAE schools and universities; and

• establishment of a Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum office in New York City, in quarters on Hudson Street.

Sheikh Sultan highlighted education as a key element of the accord between Abu Dhabi and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Staff working at the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
Museum will undergo training as curators, curatorial assistants, registrars, art handlers, and museum security personnel.

“This inclusive approach is very important to us, because our aim is not only to provide a world-class cultural institution for the Emirate, but also to foster a culture of arts appreciation and create new career streams for our nationals,” said Sheikh Sultan. “To achieve this, we have to embark on a continuous educational program, and we are doing this with the Guggenheim Foundation’s support.”

The development and operation of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi presents a unique opportunity for a collaboration and partnership that will foster cross-cultural exchanges, dialogue and understanding.

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi
Museum is being built as part of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island Cultural District: a square-mile ensemble of four museums, a five-stage performing arts center, and a biennial park with pavilions for exhibitions and programs, created in collaboration with some of the world’s most prominent art institutions and designed by some of the world’s most renowned architects. Saadiyat Island lies one-third of a mile off the shore of Abu Dhabi island.

The Master Plan for the Saadiyat Island Cultural District is to establish Abu Dhabi as a global cultural destination with the capacity to host international cultural events on an unprecedented level and with content and expertise provided through partnerships with some of the world’s greatest cultural and educational institutions.

“The Saadiyat Island Cultural District is uniquely visionary because it is inclusive, democratic, and both respectful of difference and excited by it,” said Thomas Krens. “That leaders of Abu Dhabi have initiated and nurtured such a project, and have brought it to this point, is in itself a breathtaking achievement, and testifies to the power of the link between culture and economic development.”

“We are proud to be part of this historic project in Abu Dhabi,” said William Mack, Chairman, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. “We believe that the Saadiyat Island Cultural District will be a remarkable collaboration that can change history for so many reasons. Our partnership goes back a brief two years, when visionary leaders imagined Abu Dhabi becoming a magnet at the center of the world, where art, culture and commerce could work together to create a new future. We are grateful to Thomas Krens for making the Guggenheim an integral part of this extraordinary endeavor.”

According to Sheikh Sultan, “We in Abu Dhabi are fortunate in the vision of our leaders—Their Highnesses Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Both are solidly committed to the Cultural District and its role in creating a global capital with its own rich cultural heritage. When we set out on our journey toward becoming a global cultural destination, we recognized we needed expert advice and world-class partnerships. We believe we have found both in the Guggenheim Foundation and that together, we can make a real difference to the international cultural landscape.”

The other components of the Saadiyat Island Cultural District will be the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, addressing the social, political and natural history of Abu Dhabi and the UAE, to be designed by a renowned architecture firm currently being selected by an international competition jury; the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a universal museum designed by Jean Nouvel; a maritime museum addressing the region’s maritime and pearling history, designed by Tadao Ando; a performing arts center with five stages, designed by Zaha Hadid; and a park with arts pavilions for exhibitions and programs designed by various architects.


Betsy Ennis
Director of Public Affairs
212 423 3842

Sharon Ruebsteck
Ruder Finn Arts & Communications Counselors
212 715 1578


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