Louvre Abu Dhabi this week announced it will open its doors to the public on 11 November 2017. It is the first museum of its kind in the Arab world: a universal museum that focuses on shared human stories across civilisations and cultures.
The opening celebrations will include a wide range of public programmes, including symposiums, performances, concerts, dance and visual arts by renowned contemporary and classical artists.
Located in Abu Dhabi, Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel has designed a museum city (Arab medina) under a vast silvery dome. Visitors can walk through the promenades overlooking the sea beneath the museum’s 180-metre dome, comprising almost 8000 unique metal stars set in a complex geometric pattern. When sunlight filters through, it creates a moving ‘rain of light’ beneath the dome, reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the UAE’s oases.
On display will be the museum’s important collection of artworks, artefacts and loans from France’s top museums. These span the entirety of human existence: from prehistorical objects to commissioned contemporary artworks, highlighting universal themes and ideas and marking a departure from traditional museography that often separates according to origin. In addition to the galleries, the museum will include exhibitions, a Children’s Museum, a restaurant, a boutique and a café.
“Louvre Abu Dhabi embodies our belief that nations thrive on diversity and acceptance, with a curatorial narrative that emphasises how interconnected the world has always been. The museum represents the latest innovation in a long-standing tradition of cultural preservation nurtured by the founding leaders of the UAE.
“Louvre Abu Dhabi forms one element of Abu Dhabi’s cultural strategy, which safeguards our rich heritage and catalyses creativity. Investment in a vibrant cultural ecosystem supports the UAE’s economic diversification and development as a modern, dynamic society. Louvre Abu Dhabi will inspire a new generation of cultural leaders and creative thinkers to contribute to our rapidly-changing and tolerant nation.”
His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC)
Take a look inside
Louvre Abu Dhabi’s story will begin in the Great Vestibule, where visitors are introduced to important themes such as maternity and funerary rituals. The dialogue between works from different geographical territories, sometimes far apart, highlights similarities between the canons despite each having its own mode of expression. The galleries will be both chronological and thematic, and subdivided into 12 chapters. Displays include works from the earliest empires, including the first figurative representations, such as the Bactrian Princess created in Central Asia at the end of the third millennium BCE, funerary practices of ancient Egypt illustrated by a set sarcophagi of Princess Henuttawy, and the creation of new economies with a Decadrachm coin of Syracuse signed by the artist Euainetos.
A gallery dedicated to universal religions will feature sacred texts: a Leaf from the “Blue Quran”, a Gothic Bible, a Pentateuch and texts from Buddhism and Taoism. The artistic exchanges on the trading routes during the Medieval and Modern periods are brought to the fore through an important number of ceramic works. Between Asia and the Mediterranean and then between Europe and America, guests will appreciate how the world’s horizon gradually expanded. A set of screens from the Japanese Namban demonstrate the dialogue between the Far East and Europe. From the image of the Prince throughout the world, illustrated by an important Ottoman Turban Helmet to a more intimate vision of a new art of living, the museum presents an exceptional chest of drawers made in Red Chinese lacquer by Bernard II Van Risenburgh (BVRB, 1696–1766), created in France. In a section about Modernity are Edouard Manet’s (1832–1883) ‘The Gypsy’, Paul Gauguin’s (1848–1903) ‘Children Wrestling’, Piet Mondrian’s (1872–1944) ‘Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black’. On show will be a monumental work by the artist Ai Weiwei (1957) and his questioning of globalisation.
Louvre Abu Dhabi’s first site-specific works installed in the outdoor areas by contemporary artists interact with the spirit of the museum and the fabric of the architecture. American artist Jenny Holzer (1950) has created three engraved stone walls named ‘For Louvre Abu Dhabi’ (2017). These cite important historical texts from Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, the Mesopotamian bilingual (Akkadian / Sumerian) Creation Myth tablet, and the 1588 annotated edition of Michel de Montaigne’s Les Essais. Italian artist ‘Giuseppe Penone’ (1947) has produced several works specifically for Louvre Abu Dhabi. ‘Leaves of Light’ (2017) is a vast bronze tree with mirrors placed in its branches to reflect the ‘rain of light’. ‘Propagation’ (2017) is a wall of porcelain tiles that depict hand-drawn concentric circles originating from the fingerprint of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father. It was produced in collaboration with the workshops of Sèvres – Cité de la céramique in France.
In the galleries, important artworks on loan from 13 leading museums in France will be presented. Highlights include Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452–1519) ‘La Belle Ferronnière’ (on loan from Musée du Louvre); Vincent van Gogh’s (1853–1890) self-portrait (Musée d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie); a rare ivory saltcellar from the Benin Empire (Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac); a Globe by Vincenzo Coronelli (1650–1718) of Bibliothèque Nationale de France; a pair of gui vessels (Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet); Jacques-Louis David’s (1748–1825) ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’ (Château de Versailles); Auguste Rodin’s (1840–1917) ‘Jean d’Aire from the group the Burghers of Calais- (Musée Rodin); a 13th-century reliquary chest (Musée de Cluny – Musée National du Moyen Âge); a Chinese ewer of Persian shape (Musée des Arts Décoratifs); a Breastplate of Marmesse (Musée d’Archéologie Nationale – Saint Germain en Laye); the Apollo Belvedere statue by Primatice (1504–1570) from Château de Fontainebleau; and ‘Standing Woman II’ by Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) from Centre Pompidou.
A museum for everyone
The inaugural special exhibition, From One Louvre to Another: Opening a Museum for Everyone, opens on 21 December 2017, and traces the history of Musée du Louvre in Paris. Divided into three sections, the exhibition will look at the royal collections at Versailles under King Louis XIV, followed by the residency of the Academy and Salons in this palace for artists, and conclude with the creation of the modern Musée du Louvre. It will feature approximately 145 significant paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and other pieces from the collections of Musée du Louvre and Château de Versailles. The exhibition is curated by Jean-Luc Martinez, President-Director, Musée du Louvre, and Juliette Trey, Curator, Prints and Drawings Department, Musée du Louvre.
The intergovernmental agreement includes the loan of the Musée du Louvre’s name for 30 years and 6 months, temporary exhibitions for 15 years, and loans of artworks for 10 years.
Tickets for the museum will cost 60 AED for general admission and 30 AED for ages between 13 and 22, as well as UAE education professionals. Free entry will apply to members of the museum’s loyalty programme, children under 13 years, ICOM or ICOMOS members, journalists, and visitors with special needs (referred to visitors with determination in the UAE) as well as their companion.