Rendering of Foster + Partners’s Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi.

Uncertain Future for British Museum’s Partnership With Abu Dhabi’s Zayed National Museum

Two years before a ten-year contract was due to conclude, the future of a partnership between the British Museum and Abu Dhabi’s Zayed National Museum is in question because work has not yet started on the latter museum’s building on Saadiyat Island, according to a report by Martin Bailey in the Art Newspaper. Roslyn Sulcas at the New York Times has clarified the Art Newspaper’s initial report, which stated the deal had been terminated. The Zayed National Museum was supposed to open in 2013, but construction contracts have still not been awarded. It remains unclear whether the institution is merely being further delayed or if its future existence is in doubt.

The Zayed National Museum is named after Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and first ruler, from 1971 to 2004, of the United Arab Emirates. The proposed site for the institution is next to the Louvre Abu Dhabi—which is preparing to open in November—and was designed by the London-based architects Foster + Partners. The British Museum originally signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development & Investment Company, which is responsible for Saadiyat Island, in 2009. Under the terms of the deal, the London museum would train Emirati staff, advise on the development and operation of the museum, and provide loans. A team of around twenty staff from the UK institution have been involved for most of the period since then.

A spokeswoman for the British Museum says that the “development phase” of the project was concluded last March. Over the past eight years, she claimed they had “developed a close partnership” with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Tourism and Culture (DTC), adding that “the ongoing development of the collection will be undertaken by a dedicated in-house team” at the DTC.