Why my Louvre? Why have you forsaken us?

December 16, 2021
WIlliam Mlekush
7 min

Dear Louvre Abu Dhabi,

Let me start by saying thank you – thank you for sticking around through the hard times. Growing up, when the hateful conservatism of the Mother Culture around me backed my expression and identity too far into that corner of fear and inadequacy, I found solace in walking amongst the humble collections at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

Lisa Hokes – Come on Down at OKCMOA

In the same way, for my first two years living here, you offered respite from the moments when pressure begets exploitation and social norms enact harmful restrictions. I did not need you often, but when I did, you were but a few minutes away.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Of course, you are not perfect. You have flaws. You and yours have made mistakes. And having returned after eighteen months away, my eye and expertise honed a bit more, I can finally put words to our friction.

Your render sculptural forms flat. In your effort to preserve and juxtapose, you group objects under glass such that engaging with them as objects–walking up to them, around them, and over or under them–requires visitors to break their line-of-sight or, worse, to lean lean as if encountering a painting. As we lean, we lose reduce the unique quality of the sculpture to the analogous in painting. We lose the opportunity to encounter those objects with relaxed, open bodies.

Louvre groupings of artifacts

While you at one moment, you over-exert your narratives, at others you miss the opportunity to see them shine. If you just turned the Abyssinian Chieftain, they would be looking at The Thinker, creating a subtle, beautiful reiteration of the connections of time and space present throughout the room. Instead, you insist on maintaining a “front,” and in doing so, you obscure.

You obscure the violence these objects endured. You obscure the chisels, hammers, and explosives used to rip them from their resting place. You obscure the crowbars, pliers, and prongs used to remove sacred remains from the reliquary. You obscure these and their wielders, and, thus, the history of the pieces from those who must hear it.

But what can I expect of you, my Louvre. You are what you are–an art museum burdened with the pressure of a given name, brought about by hands unknowable, at the mercy of voices drowning out your own.

For this, I can forgive your take on sculpture. I can even hope that my amateur criticism sounds like that of someone missing a joke in a language they barely grasp. For there is so much in you to love!

Like your most recent exhibition Dragon and Phoenix. With meditations on the color blue, an interactive projection-mapped room, and a two-story sculpture, I was happy I decided to extend my return visit for a moment longer to see the temporary parts of you.

But for all that I can forgive, and for all that I love you for, there is one thing I cannot forgive.

the “coast of the UAE”

How could you possibly mess the coastline of the UAE up this bad?

the real coast of India

Oh, wait, no, that’s the southern tip of India. That’s right, the blue land and the beige sea. Wait, no… blue means water, and beige means land. Wait, no!

How could you do this!? You were so close! You had a beautiful curatorial experience, compelling presentations of history, and accessibility for multiple languages. But you messed up the maps–the broad visual overview, the connecting piece between the written narrative and the pieces in front of us, the communication that transcends language–all confused because… well, I don’t know.

So, please, Louvre Abu Dhabi, tell me. Why did you let this happen? Why did you insist on the sea being beige and the land being blue? I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I have to know.

Your Love,



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