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France is bidding to buy one of two rare works by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn to prevent its current owner, the Rothschild family, from shipping the painting to Amsterdam.

Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin said the Bank of France would make an “exceptional” donation of 80 million euros ($89 million) to purchase one of the 17th century paintings for the Louvre Museum, just four days after the Netherlands said it had made an offer to buy both masterpieces.

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The portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, a young and successful couple that Rembrandt van Rijn painted just before their wedding in 1634, might hit the market very soon, "El País" reports.

The sale could be a sensational event, as the paintings have been in France since 1877, when they were bought by Baron Gustave de Rothschild, and have rarely been displayed in public since.

The current owner, Eric de Rothschild, has obtained an export permit, granted by the French Ministry of Culture and the Louvre Museum, and according to the French publication "La Tribune de l'Art," has put a €150 million price tag on the paintings in the documents.

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Abu Dhabi has finally awarded a $653 million contract to build a branch of the Louvre Museum to Arabtec Holding Co., a Dubai-based construction company, which is partly owned by Abu Dhabi. The Louvre has been planning the outpost since March 2007, but was sidetracked by a number of delays prompted by a public spending review of Abu Dhabi’s government.

The Louvre’s new 688,890-square-foot location, which will be designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, is expected to open in 2015. The museum’s inauguration will be followed by the opening of the Zayed National Museum, which is being built in association with the British Museum in 2016 as well as a franchise of New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 2017. All three of the museums will be part of a development located off the coast of Abu Dhabi City on Saadiyat Island.

The Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi is part of the country’s effort to establish itself as a cultural hub as well as a noteworthy tourist destination. Arabtec, which won the project after a competitive bidding process, is expected to begin construction on the museum immediately.

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Tuesday, 04 December 2012 14:09

Louvre Opens Extension in Poor French City

In response to critic’s who say French art is elitist, the Louvre has embarked on the “Louvre-Lens” project and have built an extension of the museum in the poor mining city located in northern France. The project, which opens this week, is housed in a glass and aluminum structure and stands in stark contrast to the rest of the impoverished area.

While the Louvre is well intentioned, locals are wary. French President, Francois Hollande, visited the museum on December 4 but failed to venture outside the institution’s walls. While art is welcome, locals feel they are in greater need of expanded job opportunities and a more stable economy. Still, the Louvre hopes that they can help transform Lens similarly to how the Guggenheim Museum turned the burned-out, industrial city of Bilbao, Spain into a travel destination.

Lens was leveled as a result of World War I and II. After that, the city spent decades as mining area and endured many related tragedies. After the last mine closed in 1986, the city fell into poverty. Now one of the country’s poorest cities, Lens has an unemployment rate of 24 percent; the national average is 9 percent.

Designed by a Japanese firm, the museum boast two large exhibition spaces and features a diverse body of work including Cycladic sculptures, Egyptian statues, 11th century Italian mosaics, and Leonardo da Vinci’s restored masterpiece, The Virgin and Saint Anne.

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