Jean-Hubert Martin: Louvre Abu Dhabi must redefine art

Jean-Hubert Martin has played a key role in bringing the Louvre to Abu Dhabi and now believes the museum must make the most of its historic opportunity by leading a revolution to redefine art.

Jean-Hubert Martin in conversation with Jean-Francois Charnier, curatorial director of Agence France Museums, at the final Louvre Abu Dhabi Talking Art Series lecture in Abu Dhabi, May 2015: courtesy TCA Abu Dhabi.

Given his CV, you would expect Jean-Hubert Martin to be a pillar of the arts establishment and in many ways that’s exactly what he is.

Until two years ago the 70-year-old Frenchman was part of an advisory committee to Agence France-Museums, the body responsible for delivering Louvre Abu Dhabi, and was also a key member of the negotiating party that drew up the agreement for the museum between the governments of the UAE and France.

But that will not prevent him from calling for a cultural revolution this evening, during Art as a Witness of Globalisation, the latest Louvre Abu Dhabi Talking Art Series at Manarat Al Saadiyat.

“The permanent collections of museums have to be displayed in another way,” the curator says.

“Things move so much faster now and contact between cultures is becoming part of daily reality, but the real challenge is to reflect this in permanent collections that will allow people to understand things in a way that reflects today’s global reality.”

See The National to read the full version of this article.


    1. Morning Ron,
      Lovely to hear from you and thank you for such a learned response. Thank you also for taking the time to read my blog.
      For a moment you had me worried, so I went back to my article and read it again, after all, you never know what an errant sub-editor may have done to the original text.
      That’s when I relaxed. Thankfully, there is no point at which I say that I think the Louvre Abu Dhabi will redefine art or its history.
      If you read very carefully, there is also no point at which J-HM says that he thinks it will do so either, quite the contrary in fact.
      J-HM believes that the new museum should take the opportunity to do so which is a very different thing.
      I say neither and the reason I do not comment is because I am a feature writer, not a critic.
      By way of an explanation, let me explain my attitude to feature writing and you can decide whether or not it is overly pusillanimous.
      In my features, I try to adopt a position of impartiality. In choosing to write about a subject I do so because I think it is interesting or sometimes because it is newsworthy (not the same thing) and sometimes, as a journalist, because I am asked to cover a particular topic, quite legitimately, by an editor.
      In these instances, I am a scribe, so when I write a feature, my approach is to let the experts have their say, to provide the public with that information, and then, hopefully, to allow the reader to take a position based on the material that I have unearthed.
      The only time I take a more personal or polemical stance is when I write what are called Postcards, for The National’s weekend The Review section and these are normally about architecture in Abu Dhabi.You can see some of these on my blog (see Shine on you Crumbling Diamond an example).
      When it comes to my coverage of Louvre Abu Dhabi however, my approach is different and it stems from the fact that, as well as studying art and design history, I have also been a practicing designer and I know how complex large projects can be in their conception, design, gestation and execution.
      So, in many ways, I see myself as a kind of archivist of the Louvre Abu Dhabi project, amassing material that might otherwise be lost and I also try to provide a platform for voices that might not normally be heard.
      J-HM is not a very good example of that, he will always be interviewed and deserves to be because he is a very intelligent man with interesting things to say, but if you look at my other articles you will see that I have interviewed engineers, architects, builders and labourers as well as fancy curators, collectors and artists.
      All of these people make the Louvre Abu Dhabi possible which is why I believe they should all have their say in print.
      Whether all of these people will make a museum that is inspiring, art historically interesting or that addresses the issues raised in your post is quite a different issue, as is my opinion on the matter.
      My best

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