After months of rumour the French government has finally come clean about its plans for "stretching" the Louvre museum. It will "rent" the name, expertise and some of its treasures to a new museum being built in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. In return, they will get the rather tasty sum of between $800 million to $1 billion.
This bit of brand stretching has created more than a bit of a fuss in France, with the New York Times reporting that over 2000 people have signed a petition accusing France of "selling its soul". The former director of Les Musees de France squealed that "One can only be shocked by the commercial use of masterpieces of our national heritage, cultural objects are not consumer good."
OK, so marketing the Mona Lisa isn't the same as promoting pasta sauce, but can't the same rules of consumer goods branding be applied? Firstly, the Louvre is sticking to its core business of museums, which is a good start. They're not trying to create a Louvre Art Holidays business, or sell Louvre art insurance (though why not). Second, the move makes huge business sense. There's the small matter of the billion dollars. And only 35 000 of the 300 000 works are on display at any one time. That makes 265 000 bits of "stock" sitting gathering dust. Finally, the museum is probably going to be pretty bloody amazing given the amount of money being thrown at it. The museum will be the centrepiece of a new district being created with $27 billion of investment.
Also, there are successful examples of museum brand stretching. The Guggenheim Museum has satellites in Venice, Berlin and Bilbao (on the right) and is also planning to get in on the Abu Dhabi action. More modestly, the Tate has regional outposts in Liverpool and Cornwall.
So, will the "Louvre of the Sands" go down in history as a great example of awakening, stretching and growing a dusty old brand? Or a case of stretching the brand elastic to breaking point?