An architectural marvel 10 years in the making, Louvre Abu Dhabi is already a landmark in its own right. Set to welcome eager visitors from November 11, 2017, the launch is a major step forward for arts and culture in the region.
The origin of Louvre Abu Dhabi dates back to 2007, when the governments of the United Arab Emirates and France came together to establish a beacon that would shed light on humanity’s greatest stories. As the first of its kind in the region, the museum serves as a bridge between the East and the West, combining the UAE’s vision of cultural progress with France’s artistic expertise.
On display within the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s magnificent surrounds on Saadiyat Island are more than 600 artworks, spanning the entirety of human existence from the third millennium BCE through to the present time. This astounding collection of prehistoric objects, artefacts from the Medieval ages and contemporary pieces is exhibited alongside 300 works on loan from 13 leading French museums. And while one can spend hours marvelling endlessly at each piece, it is the remarkable structure these are housed within that demands equal attention.
Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said, “Its (Louvre Abu Dhabi’s) ground-breaking architecture complements a presentation of exceptional treasures that represent a snapshot of humanity’s creativity, and paves the way for new discussions.”
The brainchild of renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, the museum was designed to mirror an Arabian medina. Inspired by Arabic architecture, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect envisioned a museum city, with a maze of narrow passages under an expansive dome, as the home of the Louvre. Visitors can walk through each of the 55 detached buildings, 23 of which are devoted to art galleries, as well as the promenades for mesmerising views of the water and the capital’s skyline.
The museum’s stunning silvery dome, inspired by a traditional cupola, is the centrepiece of Nouvel’s vision. Spanning 180 metres in diameter, the structure is supported by four hidden piers to create an illusion of weightlessness, although it weighs approximately 7,500 tonnes. Eight layers of 7,850 stars in various sizes and angles are superimposed in a complex, geometric pattern reminiscent of overlapping palm trees in a desert oasis. This creates the effect of light trickling down to the exhibits below, called the ‘rain of light’.
The galleries at Louvre Abu Dhabi narrate an inspiring tale of humanity through the ages in a series of 12 immersive chapters. “With a unique global narrative and a vision to explore the history of art in a fresh context, Louvre Abu Dhabi is a place where visitors can come to understand their own and others’ cultures,” added Manuel Rabaté.
The journey begins in the ‘Great Vestibule’, where important themes such as maternity and funerary practices are introduced. Further through the maze of galleries, visitors will discover the development of civilisation through various themes that showcase the earliest village settlements, the rise of great powers, divine representations, expeditions through unknown lands and the dawn of globalisation.
Displays include the Bactrian Princess created in Central Asia, the sarcophagus of Princess Henuttawy, a Decadrachm coin of Syracuse signed by the artist Euainetos and ceramic works that depict trade during the Medieval and Modern periods. Sacred texts from universal regions are featured in a dedicated gallery which include a leaf from the Blue Quran, Buddhist and Taoist manuscripts, a Gothic Bible and a Pentateuch.
Some of the artworks on loan from France include Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière, Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait, the Globe by Vincenzo Coronelli, Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps and Standing Woman II by Alberto Giacometti.
Among the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s site-specific works are three engraved stone walls created by American artist Jenny Holzer citing historical texts and a wall of porcelain tiles with hand-drawn concentric circles originating from the fingerprint of the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed. ‘Leaves of Light’, created by Italian artist Giuseppe Penone, features a bronze tree with mirrors that reflect the ‘rain of light’ illusion produced by the dome.
As an inaugural special, an exhibition titled, ‘From One Louvre to Another: opening a museum for everyone’ will launch on December 21, 2017, tracing the history of the Musée du Louvre in France through 145 artworks depicting the development of the Parisian icon we know today.