After Years of Delays, Abu Dhabi’s Guggenheim Museum Is Set for a 2025 Debut


Is Abu Dhabi’s Guggenheim Museum—a venture that has seen one delay after another—finally going to open? According to a report in the Financial Times, this time a formal debut date has finally been set. Over the past weeks, Abu Dhabi has redoubled its commitment to opening the major art institution in 2025 with the award of a $1 billion joint-venture contract with global project development firm Besix-Trojan.

The chair of Abu Dhabi’s culture and tourism department, Mohamed Al Mubarak, said in the report that the “project is more real today than it ever was.” He also said that the museum would “create a ripple effect” across the country’s economy by helping businesses.

Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the musuem will be located in the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, near downtown Abu Dhabi, where the Louvre Abu Dhabi was also constructed. It’s expected to be the largest of the Guggenheims, which has branches globally, including New York, Venice, and Bilbao. Gehry’s design is an artwork in and of itself and resembles a sculpture with its buildings of various sizes in conical and square shapes. The setting inside includes 27 galleries and spans nearly 125,000 square feet—a size comparable to that of the Tate Modern in London.

Frank Gehry

Visitors can expect to see around 600 works from 300 artists who hail from 60 countries: Middle Eastern, American, Asian, and African names are all represented. Art world stars such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat will have works on display, alongside lesser-known Emirati artists such as Hassan Sharif.

The Guggenheim is part of Abu Dhabi’s development strategy to be a cultural epicenter. The country is investing $6 billion to grow its lineup of impressive art institutions and architectural sights that already include Sheikh Zayed Bridge—designed by the late Zaha Hadid—and the Louvre, from the acclaimed French architect Jean Nouvel. The Zayed National Museum, designed by the London firm Foster + Partners, is scheduled to open in 2023.

Abu Dhabi announced its plans for the Guggenheim 15 years ago, but it has since been fraught with protests from artists and activists who accused the UAE of labor abuse. Cancelled contracts, the global financial crisis, and the crude oil collapse in 2014 that caused a slowdown in government spending only added to its many delays.

The Guggenheim’s opening will further establish Abu Dhabi as a major global cultural capital, according to Jack Ezon, the founder of the luxury travel company Embark Beyond. “Abu Dhabi has deliberately invested in bringing iconic institutions and names to its shores,” he said. “Travelers were already flocking there before COVID to marvel at the art and architecture, and the Guggenheim gives them another reason to plan a trip. It’s definitely a trip that’s worth it.”

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