Abu Dhabi Guggenheim Readies Blank Checks

We’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Abu Dhabi or Dubai, but we imagine those oil-soaked emirates to be rococo playgrounds concocted from the wildest dreams of Walt Disney, Steve Wynn, Alfred Taubman, and Willy Wonka. And so we were delighted to read that Abu Dhabi’s new Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum will have a “potentially unlimited” collection budget (wait — isn’t that the opposite of a budget?), at least that’s how Abu Dhabi Authority culture advisor Zaki Nusseibeh described it to The Art Newspaper, in a special edition of the paper distributed at The Armory Show in New York City. Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general of the Abu Dhabi Tourist Authority, also seemed to struggle with the idea of a budget, describing it as “flexible” before noting, “If something we really want is two or three times the annual amount, then we will buy it.”

So far, they’ve overpaid for–we mean, purchased–a large Keith Haring sculpture at the Art Paris fair held last November in Abu Dhabi. And they’re eyeing another potential acquisition: departing Guggenheim director Thomas Krens. “He will be more available now,” Al Muhairi told The Art Newspaper. “Other Guggenheim initiatives didn’t go through for political or financial reasons, but we have sealed this agreement, and it is now in the construction phase, and Mr. Krens will be coming regularly to work on the project.” The museum, scheduled to open in 2012-13, is being built on Saadiyat Island, which is Arabic for “Island of Happiness.”