A consortium led by Dubai-based Arabtec Holding will build the Louvre Abu Dhabi art gallery for $654 million, the developers of the much-delayed project announced on Tuesday.
Abu Dhabi Tourism Development and Investment Company said construction would start immediately with the aim of opening the museum in 2015, three years later than originally planned.
The contract was awarded to an Arabtec-led joint venture with Spanish company Constructora San Jose SA and Oger Abu Dhabi LLC "following a competitive tendering process," it said in a statement.
"The contract, valued at 2.4 billion dirhams (around $654 million), signifies a major milestone in the progress of the Louvre Abu Dhabi," it added.
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Oil-rich Gulf emirate Abu Dhabi has paid around $1.3 billion to use the Louvre name for 30 years and to tap the renowned Paris museum for artworks and expertise during this period.
The deal had stirred a debate in the French art world with critics saying the Louvre is selling its soul as they question Abu Dhabi's treatment of dissidents and immigrant workers employed in the construction of the project.
The Abu Dhabi Louvre building has been designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.
Abu Dhabi has launched an ambitious development plan, Abu Dhabi 2030, aimed at modernising the emirate and diversifying its economy.
Despite the global financial crisis and its severe impact on neighbouring Dubai, construction has continued in Abu Dhabi, although at a much slower pace than planned.