Louvre Abu Dhabi opens to the public

Situated in the cultural district of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, the museum is a stunning architectural achievement.

Strong support. Moroccan King Mohammed VI (L), French President Emmanuel Macron (2nd-L), his wife Brigitte Macron and Director-General of Abu Dhabi’s Tourism and Culture Authority Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak (2nd-R) visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum during its inauguration in Abu Dhabi, on November 8. (AP)


2017/11/12 Issue: 131 Page: 22


The Arab Weekly
Faith Salama



Abu Dhabi - A week-long series of festivities and art per­formances marked the much-anticipated open­ing of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The opening of the landmark museum, which is being hailed as a spectacular display of global art history, comes a decade after France and the United Arab Emir­ates agreed to a 30-year partnership reportedly worth $1.1 billion.

French President Emmanuel Ma­cron joined Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al- Nahyan and Dubai ruler Moham­med bin Rashid al-Maktoum for the official inauguration November 8.

Macron, on his first official visit to the UAE, toured the 12-gallery mu­seum along with the Moroccan King Mohammed VI and Afghan Presi­dent Ashraf Ghani.

The museum was a “bridge be­tween civilisations,” Macron said at the inauguration. “Those who seek to say that Islam is the destruction of other religions are liars.”

Situated in the cultural district of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, the museum is a stunning architectural achievement, offering a novel per­spective on the history of art. With artwork and artefacts from around the globe, the museum’s collec­tions take visitors on a chronologi­cal journey from prehistory to the present, with chapters featuring the establishment of the first villages, universal religions, cosmography, the magnificence of the royal court and the modern world.

Designed by French Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nou­vel, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a mas­terful structure that pays homage to the country’s Arab heritage. Con­structed of eight layers of interlock­ing steel and aluminium, the top forms a silver-toned dome that both dominates and enlivens the space below. A complex geometrical pat­tern creates more than 7,800 star-like openings along the dome and white-walled buildings accommo­date the museum below the dome.

Altogether, the museum conjures the image of an Arab medina as seen through the eyes of a contemporary cinematographer.

Mohamed al-Mubarak, chairman of the Tourism and Culture Depart­ment-Abu Dhabi and the Tourism Development and Investment Com­pany, said in statements conveyed by the Emirati news agency WAM that the museum “celebrates the innate human fascination with dis­covery.”

“Each visitor will encounter ex­traordinary artworks and artefacts from global cultures that are both familiar and surprising,” he said.

This commitment to diversity is reflected across the museum’s 6,400 sq. metres of galleries, which place special emphasis on human solidarity.

The museum’s growing collec­tion includes ancient archaeologi­cal finds, decorative art, neoclassi­cal sculptures, paintings by modern masters and contemporary installa­tions.

Ancient masterpieces include a Bactrian princess created in Central Asia at the end of the third millen­nium BC, a Grecian sphinx from the sixth century BC and an Iranian gold bracelet in the shape of a lion.

Artefacts of the world’s major re­ligions are also on display, including a leaf from the Blue Quran, a Gothic Bible, a Standing Bodhisattva from the second-third century and a white marble Buddha head from China.

Highlights from later periods in­clude an ancient astrolabe, a display on the science of cosmography, a red Chinese lacquer chest of draw­ers produced in France by Bernard II van Risenburgh and Giovanni Bellini’s “Madonna and Child.”

In a gallery called the Magnifi­cence of the Court, Benin bronzes are juxtaposed with a bronze eques­trian statue of King Philip of Spain by Lorenzo Vaccaro (1702-05).

A series of iconic paintings cap­tures the emergence of the modern world, including Gustave Caille­botte’s “The Bezique Game,” Ed­ouard Manet’s “The Gypsy,” Paul Gauguin’s “Children Wrestling,” Osman Hamdi Bey’s “A Young Emir Studying,” Piet Mondrian’s “Com­position with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black,” René Magritte’s “The Subju­gated Reader” and Pablo Picasso’s “Portrait of a Lady.”

The museum’s contemporary art collection has nine canvases by Cy Twombly and a monumental sculp­ture by renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Jenny Holzer and Giuseppe Penone have created monumental site-specific installations.

Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi Ma­nuel Rabaté said it “sets a bench­mark for the region, attracting the next generation of talented mu­seum professionals” and has “rein­vented the 18th-century premise of the universal museum.”

“By exhibiting works from di­verse cultures in the same space, our curation shows the intercon­nectedness of different ideologies, aesthetics and artistic techniques. The museum story transports visi­tors through a history of humanity illuminated by our collection of ex­ceptional treasures,” Rabaté said.

As part of an agreement between the UAE and France, Louvre Abu Dhabi has access to the expertise and training of 17 French partner institutions. It should also benefit from borrowing privileges with 13 leading French museums for ten years as well as from special exhi­bitions organised by these institu­tions for 15 years.

A programme of special exhibi­tions is to begin in December.


Faith Salama is a Lebanese journalist.


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