The Louvre art gallery prepares to put Abu Dhabi in the frame

By Michelle Johnson | 06 Sep 2017 | Culture

The groundbreaking Louvre Abu Dhabi museum is set to open its doors on 11 November

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* Louvre Abu Dhabi’s exterior with Abu Dhabi’s skyline [© Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji]

The Louvre Paris is one of the most prestigious art galleries in the world, so it is no wonder that when France and Abu Dhabi first decided to partner on a cultural project in 2007, this would be the ideal artistic heart of the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The first museum of its kind in the Arab world, Louvre Abu Dhabi has confirmed it will open its doors to the public on 11 November.

To engage with the museum’s plans to focus on shared human stories across civilisations and cultures, Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel designed the museum as a medina, or island city. The intricate building features a silver 180-metre dome comprised of 8,000 metal stars in a geometric pattern that allows sunlight to filter through the dome to create what Nouvel describes as a ‘rain of light’.

Within the museum, artworks, artefacts and loans from top museums in France will make up the initial collection, spanning from prehistoric objects to commissioned contemporary works from all around the world. Italian artist Giuseppe Penone produced several works for the opening, including a bronze tree named ‘Leaves of Light’ inspired by the architectural dome. His work ‘Propogation’ is wall on porcelain tiles featuring hand-drawn circles originating from the fingerprints of UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed.

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* View overlooking the sea [© Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji]

”After several years of studies and construction, guests will be able to enter this place of light, this revelatory meeting place of a number of planetary cultures beyond the seas and centuries,” said Nouvel. “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.”

Highlights from the works on loan to the museum include Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière, Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait, and the Apollo Belvedere statue by Primatice. An opening special exhibition titled From one Louvre to Another: opening a museum for everyone opens on 21 December and examines the history of the Musée du Louvre in Paris, featuring around 145 works from the Louvre Paris and Château de Versailles.

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* Louvre Abu Dhabi’s plaza [© Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji]

“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,” said Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi. “Its 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 agreement between the two governments includes carrying the name ‘Louvre’ for 30 years and six months, art works from French institutions for 10 years as its own collection grows and the programming of temporary exhibitions for 15 years. Louvre Abu Dhabi will also include a Children’s Museum, restaurant, boutique and café, as well as temporary installations and exhibitions.

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