Louvre Abu Dhabi: the “museum-city” set to open in the Arabian Gulf in November 2017

The long-awaited Louvre Abu Dhabi will open its doors on 11 November 2017.

After its grand opening, the new UAE-based museum will launch its inaugural special exhibition in December 2017, tracing the history of the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: Mohamed Somji. Image courtesy Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: Mohamed Somji. Image courtesy Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Louvre Abu Dhabi announced on 6 September 2017 that it will open its doors to the public on 11 November. Dubbed by its founders as “a universal museum that focuses on shared human stories across civilisations and cultures”, the institution was first slated to open in 2012, then postponed to 2015/2016 and now finally opening its doors in two months, and launching its inaugural special exhibition on site on 21 December. The opening celebrations will feature a wide range of public programmes, including symposia, performances, concerts, dance and visual art by renowned contemporary and classical artists.

At the helm of the museum will be Manuel Rabaté (b. 1976), named Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi in September 2016 by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi). Previously he worked at Musée du Louvre, Musée du Quai Branly and the Agence France-Museums.

The intergovernmental agreement between the UAE and France stipulated for the Louvre Abu Dhabi 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. At the press conference, Ms. Françoise Nyssen, the French Minister of Culture said that

The opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi on 11 November 2017 will be a milestone in the development of the cooperation between the United Arab Emirates and France, ten years after the signature of the intergovernmental agreement.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: Mohamed Somji. Image courtesy Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: Mohamed Somji. Image courtesy Louvre Abu Dhabi.

A star-studded architectural project

Located on Saadiyat Island, home to a cultural district that will see the opening of other institutions such as the Guggenheim and the Zayed National Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by Pritzker Prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel as a museum city, inspired by the Arab medina. The museum features promenades overlooking the sea beneath a 180-metre silvery dome comprising close to 8000 unique metal stars arranged in a complex geometric pattern. With sunlight filtering through, the dome creates a moving ‘rain of light’, recalling palm trees in UAE’s oases. Quoted by Louvre Abu Dhabi, Jean Nouvel said of the building he created:

It is an architecture that is protective of its treasures, it is a homage to the Arab city, to its poetry in geometry and light, and, under the large cupola, it is an evocation of the temporalities which inexorably punctuate the hours, days, and the passing of our lives.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: Mohamed Somji. Image courtesy Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: Mohamed Somji. Image courtesy Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The museum complex features 23 permanent exhibition galleries, with over 900 classical and contemporary acquisitions and loans displayed in a global, homogenous historical narrative. In addition, the museum will include special exhibitions, a Children’s Museum, an auditorium, a restaurant, a boutique and a café.

During the announcement conference, His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), said that the 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.

Funeral set of princess Henuttawy : cartonnage Egypt, 2nd half of 10th century BCE-beginning of the 22th dynasty. Wood with polychromy, 163.0 x 38.0 x 31.0 cm. Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, LAD 2014.023.001. © Louvre Abu Dhabi / Thierry Ollivier.

Funeral set of princess Henuttawy: cartonnage, Egypt, 2nd half of 10th century BCE-beginning of the 22th dynasty. Wood with polychromy, 163.0 x 38.0 x 31.0 cm. Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, LAD 2014.023.001. © Louvre Abu Dhabi / Thierry Ollivier.

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collections and displays

The Louvre Abu Dhabi will open with a unique display of its collection and loans from different French museums, organised and curated with the help of the expertise of 13 French museums and institutions steered by the Agence France-Muséums. It will be a unique cultural institution in that it will offer a brand new experience of art history through major works of art from different civilisations, mirrored to reveal our common humanity. As the French Minister of Culture said,

The Louvre Abu Dhabi […] carries a message of tolerance and peace and stresses the unwavering commitment of our two countries to promote culture and education as a shield against extremism.

The story revealed by the Louvre Abu Dhabi will begin in the “Great Vestibule”, introducing important, universal themes such as maternity and funerary rites of global origins. The works in dialogue will highlight the similarities in different geographical regions. The displays will be both chronological and thematic, subdivided in 12 chapters, and will span millennia, including the first figurative representations such as a Bactrian Princess from Central Asia’s 3rd millennium BCE to ancient Egyptian funerary artefacts.

Another gallery will be dedicated to universal religions and will feature sacred texts, from the Quran to the Bible and Buddhist and Taoist scriptures and texts. Other sections will follow the trade routes that expanded exchanges in the world during Medieval and Modern eras, and between Asia, Europe and the Americas. Galleries will include modern art, with works by Manet, Gaugin, Magritte and Mondrian among others.

Paul Gauguin, 'Children Wrestling Pont-Aven, France', 1888, oil on canvas, 93.0 x 73.0 cm, 121.0 x 101.2 x 9.5 cm. Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, LAD 2010.001.© Louvre Abu Dhabi / Agence Photo F.

Paul Gauguin, ‘Children Wrestling, Pont-Aven, France’, 1888, oil on canvas, 93.0 x 73.0 cm, 121.0 x 101.2 x 9.5 cm. Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, LAD 2010.001.© Louvre Abu Dhabi / Agence Photo F.

Important artworks on loan from 13 leading French institutions will also form part of the galleries’ display, including artworks from Musée d’Orsay, Château de Versailles and Centre Pompidou.

Contemporary artists are also part of the collection and loans on show, such as a monumental work by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei questioning globalisation. The museum will also feature its first site-specific works installed in the outdoor areas, created by renowned contemporary artists and interacting with the fabric and spirit of the museum.

American artist Jenny Holzer’s For Louvre Abu Dhabi (2017) is composed of three engraved stone walls that 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.

Jackson Pollock, 'Number 26 A, Black and White', 1948, glycerophtalic paint on canvas. Dation 1984. Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle. © Adagp, Paris. Crédit photographique : Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP.

Jackson Pollock, ‘Number 26 A, Black and White’, 1948, glycerophtalic paint on canvas. Dation 1984. Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle. © Adagp, Paris. Crédit photographique : Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Georges Meguerditchian/Dist. RMN-GP.

Italian artist Giuseppe Penone’s Leaves of Light (2017) is a vast bronze tree with mirrors placed in its branches to reflect the ‘rain of light’ from the dome, while Propagation (2017) is a wall of porcelain tiles depicting hand-drawn concentric circles originating from the fingerprint of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father. This latter work was produced in collaboration with the workshops of Sèvres – Cité de la céramique in France.

On 21 December, the museum will lauch its inaugural special exhibition, entitled “From One Louvre to Another: opening a museum for everyone”, which traces the history of Musée du Louvre in Paris. The three-section 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. Curated by Jean-Luc Martinez, President-Director, Musée du Louvre, and Juliette Trey, Curator, Prints and Drawings Department, Musée du Louvre, the show will feature about 145 significant paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and other pieces from the collections of Musée du Louvre and Château de Versailles.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: Mohamed Somji. Image courtesy Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: Mohamed Somji. Image courtesy Louvre Abu Dhabi.

A Global Museum for a Common Humanity

Focusing on our shared histories across the world, the Louvre Abu Dhabi aims to become a universal museum offering a new way of looking at our common humanity despite cultural differences, and will promote friendship and tolerance. In his speech at the press conference, His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said:

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, an extraordinary cultural icon, is a celebration of our common humanity. It represents the latest innovation in a long-standing tradition of cultural awareness and appreciation nurtured by the leaders of the United Arab Emirates. It is, at the same time, a monument to the deep and lasting friendship between France and the United Arab Emirates.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

1862

Related Topics: museums, museum exhibitions, museum collections, French museums, news, events in the UAE

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