The Louvre Abu Dhabi

Globalization and Cultural Identity

Heleen Dijkhuizen

You have probably heard about the Louvre in Paris, but did you know that there is another one in the Middle East called the Louvre Abu Dhabi? The new museum can be seen as a combination of art, culture and education and it has a strong connection with identity between local and global societies. Visitors can find exhibitions borrowed from French Louvre museum, 130 pieces of artworks given by the government of Abu Dhabi, and others coming from various countries, such as Greece, Turkey and Japan. Additionally, there is a debated issue that whether artworks should be valued in prices or cultural value. In this blog, we will discuss the cultural identity of the museum specifically and its consequences in regards to globalization.

Cultural Identity

Nowadays, the notion of identity is a difficult one to define, especially when it comes to cultural identity. Many people feel their cultural identity is threatened by globalization, which in turn causes nationalism to flourish. Tomlinson (2003) contests this idea. He proposes the idea that globalization has been quite a significant force in creating and proliferating cultural identity as opposed to threatening it.

Tomlinson described cultural identity as not just a description of cultural belonging, but as a collective treasure of local communities. A collective treasure that needs protecting and preserving, which is why some communities would see globalization as a threat. However, Tomlinson says that identity is the power of local culture that resists capitalist globalization. He also mentions that globalization can create identity where there previously was not. Stuart Hall (1999) also asserts this point, stating that globalization gives minority groups the power to share their story and shape a nation’s, or even global, cultural identity. Another important point is that cultural experience is in various ways ‘lifted out’ of its traditional anchoring in particular localities. Modern culture, now, is less determined by location because location is increasingly penetrated by ‘distance’.

“globalization has been quite a significant force in creating and proliferating cultural identity as opposed to threatening it”

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a good example of a globalized museum. This museum has succeeded in displaying and exhibiting art from different civilizations all over the world, which is likely a result of its collaboration with the Louvre in France. In that sense, the Louvre Abu Dhabi could be seen as an example of cultural experience being lifted out of its traditional anchoring in particular localities. Especially considering that this museum is set in a Islamic country that has a more traditional culture in comparison to Western countries in modern times.

A Global Art Museum

Belting (2009) introduces the concept of Contemporary Art as Global Art. This type of art challenges the Eurocentric view of what art is and it connects to the 21st century with it globalized world and loss of focus and context. Global Art opposes the idea of modernity and its universalism. It is meant to blur borders and stimulate equality of indigenous and popular art production. Belting also mentions a new rising player in the Global Art world: the Middle East. This region is investing in art as an economic project, as a business. This development will change the identity of Contemporary Art, but also the identity of the Middle East. Contemporary Art is known to criticize society and is very publicly visible. Therefore this may lead to conflict with the state in the Middle East. The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which is mentioned by Belting as one of the new Global Art Museums in the Middle East, describes itself as “a new cultural beacon, bringing different cultures together to shine fresh light on the shared stories of humanity”. This description definitely fits with what Belting defines as a Global Art Museum. However, even though Global Art should go against universalism, the Louvre Abu Dhabi still calls itself a universal museum. 

How global is our world?

Above we are talking about globalization, a global world and global art forms, but how global is the world really? According to Carroll (2007) the world is becoming a smaller place, but many parts of this world have not been integrated into these pertinent global networks. Caroll believes it is better to talk about transnational connections between countries and continents than talking about a true global network. Also, according to Carroll, globalization is not something that arises with the invention of the Internet or the use of social media. Globalization is not recent, but a continuing process; for example think about the Silk Route. Because of the transnational connections, a lot of art forms are inspired by all kinds of culture. The Russian ballet for example frequently incorporated other dance styles and has characteristics of Chinese and Arabian dancing. Carroll calls this hybridity and this is, like globalization, not something that has arisen in the last couple of decades. ‘’The Western dance tradition has, to a certain extent, been hybrid almost from the get-go’’. To get back to the discussion about how globalized the world nowadays is, we can argue whether the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a truly globalized museum, and in what way the museum brings in art pieces from all over the world but still adapt the pieces to the local cultural standards.

Questions for discussion

How global is the Louvre Abu Dhabi?
Can we have Global Art Museums and is it possible for an art world without borders to really exist?


Hans Belting, Contemporary art as Global art. A critical estimate. Originally published in: Hans Belting and Andrea Buddensieg (eds.), The Global Art World. Ostfildern 2009.

Noell Carroll, ‘Art and Globalization, Then and Now’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 65:1 (Winter, 2007), 131–43.

Hall, Stuart 1999. Un-settling ‘the heritage’, re-imagining the post-nation. Whose 
heritage? Third Text 49, 3-13.

J. Tomlinson, Globalization and cultural identity, in D. Held & A. McGrew (eds.), The 
global transformations reader. Polity 2003, 269-277.