Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Frank Gehry, Saadiyat Island, Museums, Abu Dhabi

Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on track for 2022 completion

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum is “on track” and “on budget” to be open on Saadiyat Island by around 2022, a senior executive involved in the planning of the museum said in an interview this month, Arabian Business reported. 

“We are on track, we are on budget and we are looking forward to the commencement of the building construction soon,” Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and Museum in New York, told Euronews in a video interview last week.

“I reckon it will be three and half or four years [to build], it is a big building and parts of it are quite complex and it should take a little bit of time to put together,” he added.

In an online update, added that Armstrong later “went on to say that the museum should be completed by around 2022”.

Designed by American architect Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is a project earmarked for the capital's Saadiyat Island. The museum is being developed near the completed Louvre Abu Dhabi, as part of the emirate's increased tourism marketing spend by $136 million over three years.

The museum is part of a cultural district in Abu Dhabi that is already home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi since November 2017 and will also include the Zayed National Museum, which was meant to open in 2016. The museum was scheduled to open two years ago.

A senior official at Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), the emirate’s tourism authority, said in 2017 that the museum was “not on hold”.

The museums, along with the development of Formula One racetracks and amusement parks, are part of the oil-rich emirate’s plan to diversify its economy away from oil and into tourism.

The Guggenheim update will be good news to hospitality operators in the emirate, according to Khalid Anib, chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH).

Speaking to Arabian Business at the Gulf and Indian Ocean Hotel Investors’ Summit (GIOHIS) in Abu Dhabi in February, the hotelier said the UAE capital needs a concentration of museums in order to attract more tourists.

ADNH has seven UAE properties in its portfolio and is currently in the process of adding five more.

“To be honest, there is an effect [from the Louvre Abu Dhabi], but not to the level that we had expected. I think the Louvre [Abu Dhabi] by itself is not enough. Initially, the plan was to have two other museums to create the museum connection,” he said.

Anib said the increased number of museums would help to encourage more tourists to stay in the capital overnight, adding that most tourists visit only Abu Dhabi for a few hours, choosing to stay in Dubai hotels.

“Most customers come from Dubai and visit the [Louvre] museum then they go back to Dubai. They come to Abu Dhabi to visit the [Sheikh Zayed Grand] mosque and go back to Dubai. So once we have a concentration of museums, then the guests will stay in Abu Dhabi,” he said.

“They will say, ‘Okay, today I go to visit the Louvre, tomorrow the [Sheikh Zayed Grand] mosque and then another museum, and that will create a destination…” he added.

The chief executive also said government spending in Abu Dhabi will “start to kick in again” following a healthy recovery in oil prices, after funding having been slow in the past two years.