The Korea Herald


Abu Dhabi welcomes Korean touch in boosting creative economy

By Lee Ji-yoon

Published : March 5, 2024 - 15:31

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The Louvre Abu Dhabi (Louvre Abu Dhabi) The Louvre Abu Dhabi (Louvre Abu Dhabi)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – A fleet of chartered busses lined up to drop off Chinese tourists at the entrance of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Arab franchise of the famous French museum – a rare scene in the capital of the United Arab Emirates where most of the visitors come from India, Saudi Arabia, the US, and the UK.

Located on a 24,000 square-meter site within the city’s Saadiyat Cultural District, the museum, known for its enormous metallic silver canopy, is a testament to the UAE’s big ambition to become a cultural hub in Asia and boost its creative economy as the next growth driver.

Under a 30-year contract signed in 2007, the Louvre shares not only its extensive art collections but also its operational know-how and employee training programs of the world’s most famous museum, helping create the city’s own cultural ecosystem. In 2019, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which made its official debut in 2017, was the most visited museum in the Middle East.

The Louvre is not the only museum to have a regional branch in the country. In the neighborhood, construction work was also underway for the upcoming Abu Dhabi Guggenheim, another franchise of the famed New Yok-based modern and contemporary art museum, with more cultural facilities, including a massive concert hall, being built to complete the city’s artistic appeal.

After pandemic disruptions in the real estate market, the newly built luxury hotels and condos within the cultural district have already sold out as they are favored as holiday villas for foreign nationals.

“By investing in cultural and creative industries, the country aims to attract tourists, stimulate economic growth, and provide a fertile ground for the development of creative and cultural enterprises,” said Michel El Gemayel, executive director of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, an organization standing at the forefront of extending international partnerships as part of the UAE’s cultural initiative.

Michel El Gemayel, executive director of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) Michel El Gemayel, executive director of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF)

According to him, partnering with Abu Dhabi’s vibrant cultural scene offers opportunities for artists and institutions to enhance their global reach and impact. Its annual Abu Dhabi Festival, marking its 21st anniversary this year, attracts almost 20,000 visitors.

Having already inked partnerships with a slew of Korean institutions, including the Universal Ballet Company, the Korea National University of Arts, and the Korean National Opera, he said, the foundation also recognizes the impact of the Korean culture boom in the UAE and the Middle East overall.

In reflection of Korea’s bigger presence in the art scene in the Middle East, Miky Lee, vice chair of CJ Group and its entertainment and media subsidiary CJ ENM, recently won this year’s Abu Dhabi Festival Award, a top honor offered to individuals for their outstanding contribution to culture and the arts. It was the first time for a Korean national to win the prestigious award.

“We acknowledged Miky Lee as the bridge between the East and West who empowers multi-cultural creators and fosters connections in arts and culture across generations,” he said. “The award recognizes the inspiration she delivered to the entertainment industry and her many endeavors which demonstrated that arts and culture can truly spread hope and peace.”

The foundation’s strategic focus on collaboration with Korean art and culture institutions aims to facilitate a “two-way exchange” that recognizes the profound cultural and artistic significance of the UAE and Korea.

“Korea's innovative contemporary arts scene, coupled with globally acclaimed cinematic achievements and the widespread influence of the Korean Wave, further emphasizes the unique contributions of Korea to the global cultural landscape. ADMAF perceives an opportunity to bridge the UAE and Korea through cross-cultural exchange, leveraging a shared appreciation for cultural festivals, literary contributions, and contemporary visual arts,” he said.

By Lee Ji-yoon

Korea Herald correspondent