British Museum Halts Loan Deal With Zayed National Museum

Zayed National Museum, British Museum, Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Cultural District, Katrina Kufer
Rendering of Zayed National Museum
The London institution has concluded its agreement with the yet-to-be-constructed UAE-based Zayed National Museum

Since 2009, the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi has worked collaboratively with the British Museum on the development of Zayed National Museum. Two years short of its 10-year contract deal, the British Museum has concluded the cooperation deal with Abu Dhabi’s Zayed National Museum (ZNM) due to the fact that the building has not yet started and there's lack of clarity as to whether the construction is delayed temporarily or indefinitely. ZNM was slated to exist on Saadiyat Cultural District alongside the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as well as institutions that are experiencing similar delays, including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Maritime Museum, and a performing arts centre designed by the late Zaha Hadid.

Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi shared: "The agreement between the British Museum and the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi has been articulated across the different aspects of the Zayed National Museum development, including the development of the Museum narrative, the strategy of the museum permanent collection, the definition of the museum structure and the continuous education, outreach and training plans. All parts of the advisory agreement have successfully concluded and the agreement came to an end in 2017, so did the British Museum’s involvement. The agreement was not terminated."

Designed by Foster + Partners, the agreement with the British Museum was signed in 2009 and stipulated that the London institution would train the UAE-based staff, advise on the development and operation of the space, as well as provide loans that, as of 2015, included around 500 objects. While a team has been active on the project, which was originally due to open in 2013, a British Museum spokesperson told The Art Newspaper that the development phase of the project was concluded in March. “We have developed a close partnership with Abu Dhabi’s DCT and have created a connection that both organisations will continue to value. The ongoing development of the collection will be undertaken by a dedicated in-house team.” DCT adds, "The cooperation with the British Museum focused on the development of the different aspects of the museum including the narrative, collection and resources training. The different aspects of the museum have been developed from 2009 to 2017 and all the stages of the agreement were concluded; the ongoing implementation of the museum developed concept would be undertaken by a dedicated in-house team at the Department of Culture and Tourism."

"Zayed National Museum’s preparatory structural works have been completed and once construction tenders have been awarded, further details on project timelines will be communicated," indicate DCT. "Meanwhile, the public programme of the Zayed National Museum, including temporary exhibitions, public talks, education programmes and outreach to universities have continued until today and have constantly updated the public on the progress of the museum narrative and its collection."


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Zayed National Museum, British Museum, Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Cultural District, Katrina Kufer
Rendering of Zayed National Museum