Louvre Abu Dhabi to open in November as cultural district takes shape

French Minister of Culture Francoise Nyssen, left, and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak announce the Louvre Abu Dhabi will open to the public on Nov. 11 at a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 07 September 2017
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Louvre Abu Dhabi to open in November as cultural district takes shape

LONDON: The Louvre Abu Dhabi will finally open to the public on Nov. 11, over a decade after the project was launched, Francoise Nyssen, France’s culture minister, has announced.
The gallery, part of the Saadiyat Cultural District in the UAE capital, is the first establishment outside the original Louvre in Paris, home to the world’s largest art collection, to carry the famous name.
Nyssen said the opening, expected to be attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, will demonstrate that the West and the Arab world are united in the face of terror attacks and intolerance around the globe.
“At a time when culture is under attack this is our joint response. It is civilization responding to barbarity,” he said.
The museum aims to attract people from neighboring Arab countries and around the world, according to Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, the UAE culture minister.
“Just as the Louvre is the crown jewel of Paris, so the Louvre Abu Dhabi is destined for such a distinction,” he said.
While the excitement was palpable, there was also undoubtedly a huge sense of relief. The project has been beset by problems over funding, construction and workers’ rights, and was originally scheduled to open in 2012.
On top of that, from the start there have been frequent criticisms of the 30-year partnership between France and the UAE, worth $1.1 billion, which will see many top French museums loan art to Abu Dhabi. Some have accused the Louvre of “selling its soul.”
However, museum Director Manuel Rabate said that once open, Louvre Abu Dhabi will prove to be a brilliant example of cultural exchange.
“It’s exceptional… This is the first time a project of this kind has been launched in the Middle East. But that’s what’s so unique about this project,” Rabate said in response to the critics.
The waterfront gallery will display pieces from pre-history to the contemporary era. Besides Middle Eastern artefacts and paintings, it will include works by artists such as Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso and Cy Twombly.
“You have nude statues in the museum, contemporary paintings. You also have religious images from all religions,” Jean-Francois Charnier, scientific director of Agence France-Museums, revealed.
Major pieces include an Egyptian funeral set from the 10th century BC, a 15th century depiction of the Madonna and child by Giovanni Bellini and an 1878 Turkish painting titled “A Young Emir Studying” by Osama Hamdy Bey.
They will be housed in a series of white buildings topped by a cross-hatched steel dome, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, to let in shafts of light.
Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, tried to allay worries about the transportation of the art and the conditions in which it will be stored, in a country where temperatures soar well above 40 degrees Celsius in the summer.
“Their protection is vital to us and we have made sure we have the systems in place to protect them against the environmental conditions,” Al-Mubarak said.
Guarded by Emirati forces, in coordination with French experts, including civil defense and terrorism security forces, the exhibits are protected by “state of the art security systems and procedures, in line with international standards,” Al-Mubarak added.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is part of the the UAE capital’s drive to promote the city as a cultural hub of the Middle East, and as a patron of the arts in a region increasingly focused on soft power.
About 5 percent of the overall museum will be dedicated to contemporary and modern art. The rest will focus on telling the story of world history and religions.
In the gallery of world religions, a sixth century Qur’an, a gothic Bible and a Yemeni Torah face each other, open at verses that give similar accounts.
“To send that message of tolerance is really important for our time,” Al-Mubarak said.
The gallery forms just part of the city’s cultural drive. Branches of the Guggenheim and the Zayed Museum, the national museum named after the country’s founder, are both under construction on the same island.
The hope is that the combination of world-class art and cultural tolerance will make a statement about the UAE’s values.
“We’re definitely not this closed-off society that’s putting a massive wall up,” said Mubarak.
“We (the UAE and France) have exactly the same goal: we both want to tell the world how our history is connected.
“Through culture the world can become a better place.”


Israel spyware firm can mine data from social media: FT

Updated 19 July 2019
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Israel spyware firm can mine data from social media: FT

  • An Israeli cybersecurity company has developed spyware that can scrape data from the servers of Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft products
  • Pegasus harvests not only data stored on a device, but also any information stored in the cloud, including a user’s location data, archived messages and photos

JERUSALEM: An Israeli spyware firm thought to have hacked WhatsApp in the past has told clients it can scoop user data from the world’s top social media, the Financial Times reported Friday.
The London paper wrote that NSO group had “told buyers its technology can surreptitiously scrape all of an individual’s data from the servers of Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, according to people familiar with its sales pitch.”
An NSO spokesperson, responding in a written statement to AFP’s request for comment, denied the allegation.
“There is a fundamental misunderstanding of NSO, its services and technology,” it said.
“NSO’s products do not provide the type of collection capabilities and access to cloud applications, services, or infrastructure as listed and suggested in today’s FT article.”
In May, Facebook-owned WhatsApp said it had released an update to plug a security hole in its messaging app that allowed insertion of sophisticated spyware that could be used to spy on journalists, activists and others.
It said the attack bore “all the hallmarks of a private company that works with a number of governments around the world.”
It did not name a suspect but Washington-based analyst Joseph Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said at the time that the hack appeared related to the NSO’s Pegasus software.
It is normally sold to law enforcement and intelligence services.
Friday’s FT report, citing documents it had viewed and descriptions of a product demonstration, said the program had “evolved to capture the much greater trove of information stored beyond the phone in the cloud, such as a full history of a target’s location data, archived messages or photos.”
NSO says it does not operate the Pegasus system, only licensing it to closely vetted government users “for the sole purpose of preventing or investigating serious crime including terrorism.”
The group came under the spotlight in 2016 when researchers accused it of helping spy on an activist in the United Arab Emirates.
NSO is based in the Israeli seaside hi-tech hub of Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. It says it employs 600 people in Israel and around the world.
Pegasus is a highly invasive tool that can reportedly switch on a target’s cell phone camera and microphone, and access data on it, effectively turning the phone into a pocket spy.
“Increasingly sophisticated terrorists and criminals are taking advantage of encrypted technologies to plan and conceal their crimes, leaving intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the dark and putting public safety and national security at risk,” the company statement said.
“NSO’s lawful interception products are designed to confront this challenge.”