British Museum
Delays to construction of Zayed National Museum

Delays in the building of the Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi have put in doubt the British Museum’s involvement.

The British Museum was set to help curate exhibitions and loan the Middle East museum over 500 items. These are thought to have included Assyrian reliefs, Ming porcelain, Byzantine relics as well as Greek and Roman jewellery, according to the terms of a deal signed in 2009.

Reports in The Art Newspaper, the Zayed National Museum and the British Museum had ended their 10-year deal.

However, a British Museum spokesman denied that the agreement had ended, but would run until 2019. Because of the hold up in building works, the London-based museum “does not anticipate lending objects within the current contract period, but loans could be discussed at a later date.”

Instead, the Zayed Museum would build its own collection in the coming years, as reported by the New York Times.

British Museum loses out on lucrative deal

Under the original partnership agreement, the British Museum was to receive fees that “would have earned hundreds of thousands of pounds a year ” according to the Times.

The new museum, which was designed by Lord Foster, is named in honour of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates.

On the Foster + Partners website, the project has a completion date of 2020. It was originally scheduled to open in 2013.

British Museum
Artist’s impression of Zayed National Museum

Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi’s culture and tourism bureau, said that construction of the Zayed Museum would continue. He added that the Abu Dhabi museum will rise from the sands before the  Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim in Saadiyat Island.

Construction works are expected to start soon, according to Sam Graham, managing director of  (RLB), which provided pre-contract cost management services for the museum.

“[The project] has recently restarted, with the intent to [begin] construction and development,” he told Construction Week.

A statement issued to Construction Week by Faisal Al Dhahri, who handles public relations and communications for the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (TCA), said: “’Zayed National Museum’s preparatory structural works have been completed, and no redesign work is taking place.

“Once construction tenders have been awarded, further details on project timelines will be communicated,” the statement added.

The museum will be the centrepiece of the Saadiyat Island Cultural District and will showcase the history, culture and, more recently, the social and economic transformation of the Emirates.

Images: Zayed National Museum: Foster + Partners