It was a historic day on 11th November as Paris’s iconic Musée du Louvre opened its satellite in the Saadiyat Cultural District of Abu Dhabi. Louvre Abu Dhabi will stand as a symbol of accord and unity between Abu Dhabi and France.
Designed by Pritzker-prize winning architect Jean Nouvel the building was inspired by Arabic architecture and culture. A series of 55 pristine white buildings consisting of 23 permanent galleries pays homage to the traditional Arabic medina and low-lying Arab settlements.
The project is also based on a prominent symbol of Arab architecture: the dome. The “museum city” sits under a low silver dome almost 180 metres in diameter. The design is constructed of four outer and four inner layers of stainless steel separated by structures of five meters high. A geometric pattern is repeated at varying angles and sizes forcing each ray of light to infiltrate the layers before it enters the building. Thus creating a “rain of light” effect which has been a labour of love and serves as one of the defining features of the building. The result is a tranquil space to relax, socialise and enjoy.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi will be in good company. It’s the first of several planned cultural and architectural institutions for Saadiyat Island. We can expect a Guggenheim from Frank Gehry, a performing arts centre from the late Zaha Hadid, a maritime museum from Tadao Ando and a museum of the history of the UAE and Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (the driving force in the formation of the UAE) from Norman Foster; all are on course for the region.
What’s in the Collection
Louvre Abu Dhabi emphasises the shared human experience which transcends geography, national identity and history. In contrast to other museums the collections are presented chronologically. Objects from early civilizations as well as world religions are presented together thus illustrating the diverse and yet extraordinary affinity between people and places.
In the opening year, approximately 300 artworks on long-term loans from 13 key French institutions will be displayed alongside the museum’s permanent collection. They include Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière, Claude Monet’s Saint-Lazare station and Edouard Manet’s The Fife Player and Henri Matisse’s Still Life with Magnolia (1941).
Other notable artworks include one of the finest examples of a standing Bactrian Princess from the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, Paul Gauguin’s masterpiece Children Wrestling, René Magritte’s The Subjugated Reader, a 1928 collage by Picasso titled Portrait of a Lady and the earliest known photographic image of a veiled woman. The museum’s own holdings which exceed 600 pieces includes a Piet Mondrian (Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black, 1922) acquired as far back as 2008 – 2009.
With such an exemplary collection, temporary exhibition space, a children’s museum, 200-seater-auditorium, restaurant and café Louvre Abu Dhabi promises to take visitors on an unparalleled historical narrative through art. What an exciting time for Abu Dhabi and what an incredible time for art lovers in the East! Does one need any further encouragement than this to visit Abu Dhabi?