Guggenheim in UAE with no Nudes?

The United Arab Emirates will soon have the largest Guggenheim museum to be built. The New York based Guggenheim Foundation currently has museums in New York, Bilbao, Venice, Berlin, and Las Vegas.
The American architect Frank Gehry will build Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (GAD) which will be located on a Gulf island (Saadiyat) near the United Arab Emirates capital. It is expected to be 30,000 square meters or 322,800 square feet and will be completed within five years.

The interesting thing about such a grand museum for contemporary art is that there will be no nudes or works that are confrontational in any way, which includes works of a religious nature. I don’t think it’s a major issue, just different to museums in other countries.
I remember stopping at the airport in the UAE and flicking through the art magazines to discover that all the nudes had been blacked out with a marker. I’m not sure if it still happens, but I remember thinking I would hate to have the job of going through every magazine to check for nudes to cover over!
The heated toilets at the airport made up for it though. They were really quite impressive!

Biggest Guggenheim museum to be built on UAE island
All works to go on display at the museum will “respect Abu Dhabi’s culture and national and Islamic heritage,” the foundation said in a statement. “Our objective is not to be confrontational, but to be engaged in a cultural exchange,” said Thomas Krens when asked how the boldness of contemporary art can be reconciled with conservative Muslim values” Yahoo News
There’s more about the issue over at the Articulate blog too.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. I’m sorry, but maybe I didn’t understand you right. Heated toilets make up for a lack of freedom of expression. Too bad the Soviets never figured that one out!

  2. Obviously freedom of expression is an important issue, but I didn’t have time to solve all the problems of the UAE as it was a 12 hour stop-over.

    It’s a cultural and religious issue that’s above my head. I think it’s wrong that it happens, but I’m not about to go out protesting about it as I don’t have to deal with it everyday.

    I’m not insensitive to the issue, I just don’t feel strongly either way. Some people like nudity, some don’t.


  3. If only we could all accept our differences so easily. Well said, Dion.

  4. Not an honest cultural exchange when it is conditional and presenting only what one sides wants.

    hum, heated toilets, the mind boggles ;)

  5. I hadn’t noticed you have a blog Karen.

    I love your new work too.

    Dion (

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t offer this as justification for the banning of nudes much less for the banning of heated toilets but unless I am more than usually forgetful, the Frick Museum, that wonderful setting for a great collection, never owned anything with more than the most subtle hint that women possessed, how can I say without offense, breasts? I believe it was because Mr.Frick did not approve of such immodesty in public.
    I do believe, however, that the remarkable painting by Raphael of his last girlfriend which was on loan to them did reveal a daring amount of cleavage. Could that be the reason for my falling in love with her at first sight?
    I must admit a spent a few amused minutes observing reactions to the unexpected sight (for many) of a three wall nude male which is on view now at the NYV Guggenheim. It is not that it is a nude male, one can hardly take four steps at the Met without meeting one, such as the dazzling Canova’s in one of the sculpture halls, but turning a corner and being confronted by the late actor, Sal Mineo’s many times life size organs is, well, a little different.
    Happily it does enhance the self-respect of smaller men and those who are considering a bit of indulgence with one to see that the size of the man is not correlated with the size of his equipment. The question, of course, is, is this a realistic portrayal as the style suggests or simply an exercise in day dreaming.


  7. I guess that thinking of Sal Mineo set my blood afire causing me to click the anonymous rather than other button.Perish forbit I should seem to be an advocate of anonymous voyeurism.However, I see I did put my name in anyway which perhaps indicated that the lust for self-revelation is greater than the lust for sex….is there a psychoanalyst in the house?


  8. Honest mistake Irv.

    And I’m glad that not too many great art collectors are as prude as mr Frick.

    Those that are shocking or pornographic should probably be put in a restricted room (making them more popular!), but it’s hard to argue that a tasteful nude by a good painter is offensive in any way.

    Japanese prints are also good at increasing organ sizes many times.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Was flicking through a Modigliani book the other day in an Abu Dhabi bookshop and was appalled to see that any suggestion of “intimate parts” were indeed still very heavily blocked out with a black marker – no matter how “modest” or small the picture was.
    This is a muslim country so don’t expect that to change any time soon…

  10. I have to admit I think it’s sad, cultural diversity and confronting works add social dynamic and love them or hate them they can challenge people’s perspective. I fear that the repression of nudes and other confronting works might lead to stagnation. Where there is no challenge there is no progression.

    IMHO anyway.

    That is so sad about the Modigliani book too. I hadn’t realize it could extend that far.

  11. Hello..I read through this blog and i was rather disappointed by what i read. Don’t get me wrong, i respect every single opinion in’s just that you talk about something without really understanding what it is about. Abu Dhabi is a Muslim country, and nudity is not permitted in Islam. I don’t think it’s a lack of freedom of expression. You don’t have to have a nude to express something..actually i think nudity is rather out of date! It’s been done over and over and over again! what’s so original about that. Besides, if the Museum doesn’t cater to the local people’s appeal then what good is it? At least get people in there, let them see the art and maybe, just maybe in time people would be more open to nudity that is tastefuly done.

    I am a Muslim, and i’m from the UAE. I am not offended by nudity in art if it’s tastefuly done but like many art movements before, i think it’ll take some time before people in my country are ready for provocative art. Paul Gauguin, one of the most famous post impressionists, was only appreciated after his death! people didn’t even give him a chance!

    And i resent being compared to the Soviets. You obviously haven’t been to the UAE or you wouldn’t have said that. (ironically, there are a lot of russians in my country…hmm)


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  2. […] Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates are expected to open around 2012. >> Art […]

  3. […] The Art Newspaper has reported that the Louvre museum is in talks with Abu Dhabi officials in regards to opening a museum in the United Arab Emirates. I wonder if the UAE Louvre will also have no nudes like the planned Abu Dhabi Guggenheim? […]

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