Branding, legitimation and the power of museums

by Btihaj Ajana

Museums and cultural developments are on the rise in the Gulf region. The United Arab Emirates is home to some of the most ambitious and extravagant museum projects in the world. In this article, I consider the example of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, exploring some of its underlying dynamics and context. I focus mainly on the relationship between branding and legitimation while placing my analysis within a wider critical debate, which includes discussions on the link between museums and identity, the legitimizing role of architecture, and the various contentious concerns and controversies surrounding the Louvre Abu Dhabi project. I conclude that the United Arab Emirates and other neighbouring countries have an excellent opportunity for innovation in the cultural field if they are willing to critically and ethically found their cultural developments on an ethos of inclusivity, openness, experimentation, non-exploitation and curatorial courage.

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