Louvre Abu Dhabi opens to the public
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.