The fact that this museum has emerged in Abu Dhabi is very meaningful for France, as today you’re at the epicentre of the world in terms of accelerating globalisation. You are at the crossroads of the Western and Eastern worlds, facing towards Europe as much as towards the Arab world, India and China. You are the pivotal point between Europe, Africa and Asia, and at the heart of the geopolitical tensions shaking the world. You have a stake in these hugely complex civilisational and religious challenges, but also in the crucial climate crises that are gripping us.
So, what we’ve built together here is, in a way, the living embodiment of the “imaginary museum” Malraux dreamt of; it’s these masterpieces from so many continents and eras, collected and sampled here in this way. Doing this here has very special meaning. France knows it must maintain its position in this dialogue of cultures, in this outreach of art and heritage. We’re inaugurating here a very special link between our two countries. The Louvre Abu Dhabi will be a link for at least the next three decades, but also – I very strongly believe – for much longer still. But above all, it is the response France must make alongside you, in order to combat all forms of obscurantism. Earlier as we passed by, we saw Napoleon’s familiar face. He was a man of conquest, and sometimes he brought back great works, which can be found both in the Louvre and other French museums.
Today, we are talking about another conquest, not looking for the greatest works of civilisation and bringing them back to our country, but enabling the most beautiful works in the whole world – and in particular those currently housed in France – to be brought here, to this epicentre of all the fighting I was talking about. This Louvre of the desert and light which you wanted and which we created together reflects our desire to send this universal message. It reflects this desire to compare our cultures. It is about being humble enough to remember that there is something similar about beauty here and beauty elsewhere, something universal in what seemed to us unique to each of our cultures, because every time there’s a link between us that makes us profoundly determined to combat all forms of withdrawal. This Louvre of the desert and light is that message sent out and the bravery you wanted to show in restoring your religion to what it has always done, as you have just reaffirmed very bravely.
It is a message of profound syncretism: your religion cannot be loved here without a reminder that all the great monotheistic religions were born here, in this region, and that Islam was born out of this palimpsest of cultures and civilisations, which shows that our religions and civilisations are inextricably, intractably linked. When it comes to the humanities and sciences here with you, it will be the battle for language, the French language, that I want to be stronger and more influential, here and throughout the surrounding region. I have a secret dream, for French to regain its place in your secondary education system and in state schools. I shall play my part fully in helping with this, because French is not a closed language. It is a language of translators, of transition, a language that has always been built amid multilingualism, and Jordan is well aware of this, as are many countries here, and Morocco is perfectly aware of it. I want a strong French language because I want one that will fight this battle with you in Africa and the Middle East, a battle against obscurantism. French is the language of reason, the language of light, the language of this dome, a language that has intermixed with all the continents where it has been, and the French language must no longer be a language of hang-ups, the hang-ups of those who colonised or those who decolonised. It must also be the language of young people, of this same conquest.
The above is adapted from a speech given at the inauguration of the Louvre Abu Dhabi in November 2017.
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