Clo'e Floirat

Critical Writing in Art & Design

Saadiyat Island: Island of Happiness


30 x 21 cm

Major Project: DUST BOOM BANG

Museums, it seems, have the capacity to put a city on the map. Iconic buildings by celebrated architects are - as many commentators have acknowledged - powerful ways of branding the city. As the widely recognised success of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which has changed perceptions and perhaps even the fate of this city, demonstrates, it seems that such strategies can have positive effects. While the Beaubourg, Bilbao and Guggenheim effects are well understood and discussed, they do not entirely capture what has been happening to the development of the global museum in recent years. Long-established museums like the Louvre are establishing new partnerships and outposts around the world.

To explore this phenomenon, I have looked at a spate of new museums and cultural centres being developed in the United Arab Emirates, focusing on Saadiyat Island, the site of new monuments by Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel and Tadao Ando in Abu Dhabi. This island will become, to use Guy Debords words, 'an immense accumulation of spectacles'. The scale and the speed of the recent development of new museums in places like Abu Dhabi, appear to be out of sync: spectacular structures are built at a rapid pace while it is far from clear what they will contain when they open. Whatever the new museums built there will eventually present to the public, each strives to be a spectacular work of art in its own right; all of them being conceived as islands on an island.

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BA, Contextual Design, Design Academy Eindhoven, Netherlands, 2007; BA, Art & Design, École Supérieure d’Art et de Design de Reims, France, 2005


Artistic consultant, Robert Wilson, New York, USA, 2009 to present; Freelance architecture and design journalist and cartoonist, Berlin, Germany, 2007–11


Winner, Entente Cordiale Award, British Council, 2011; Artist Residency, Robert Wilson Watermill Center, 2009