Louvre Abu Dhabi, which will open its doors to the public on Saturday November 11, is the first gallery of its kind in the Middle East. Art in its permanent collection will come from around the world, spanning from the beginning of history to the modern day, all of which will be grouped by time rather than country or movement.
Of the 600 pieces on display, half will be on loan from 13 of France’s top cultural institutions.
General admission will cost Dhs60 for adults and Dhs30 for those aged between 13 and 22, and UAE education professionals.
The hugely ambitious project is the product of a collaboration between the governments of France and the United Arab Emirates, and is part of a cultural strategy to drive creativity and tourism in the region.
“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,” says His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and Tourism Development & Investment Company.
“The museum represents the latest innovation in a long-standing tradition of cultural preservation nurtured by the founding leaders of the UAE.”
Among the collection are a 6th century BCE Buddha head and an Ottoman helmet. Paintings include an acrylic on canvas by American abstract expressionist Cy Twombly and Bindu by Indian-born painter Syed Haider Raza, which signified a key turning point in the artist’s career and a new direction towards geometric abstractions based on Indian ethnography.
There are also works from Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, Belgian surrealist René Magritte, Turkish artist Osman Hamdy Bey, French post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin, French painter Édouard Manet and Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini, among others.
Artworks on loan from various museums in France include artefacts from ancient Egypt, Persia and Africa, as well as paintings by Jackson Pollock, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and a self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi has also commissioned several site-specific works that have been installed in the outdoor areas by renowned contemporary artists – American artist Jenny Holzer has created three engraved stone walls citing important historical texts from France and Mesopotamia.
Italian artist Giuseppe Penone produced Leaves of Light, a bronze tree with mirrors placed in its branches to reflect from the gallery’s signature “rain of light” roof structure, which Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel designed to filter light in a way reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the UAE’s oases.
Penone collaborated with French porcelain manufacturer Sèvres on Propagation, a wall of porcelain tiles depicting hand-drawn concentric circles originating from a single fingerprint from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan, the UAE’s founding father.
The inaugural special exhibition, From One Louvre to Another: Opening a Museum for Everyone, opens on Thursday December 21. It traces the history of the Musée du Louvre in Paris and features around 145 significant paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and other pieces from the collections of Musée du Louvre and Château de Versailles.
The main exhibition areas are divided into 12 chronological and themed chapters to create a dialogue between works from different parts of the world, and highlight their similarities. Displays include works from early empires and some of the first figurative representations, such as the Bactrian Princess created in Central Asia at the end of the 3rd Millennium BCE, the sarcophagi of Egyptian Princess Henuttawy, and a Roman decadrachm coin of Syracuse, thought of as the most beautiful of all time.
In the Great Vestibule, visitors are introduced to the themes of maternity and funerary rituals. There is also a gallery dedicated to universal religions that is to feature exhibits from sacred texts, such as a leaf from the Blue Quran, a Gothic Bible and texts from Buddhism and Taoism.
The universal themes and ideas used to categorise the items mark a departure from traditional museography, which usually separates according to place of origin.
November’s opening celebrations are to include a range of public programmes, including symposiums, performances, concerts, dance, and visual arts by renowned contemporary and classical artists. In addition to the galleries, the complex houses a children’s museum, a restaurant, a boutique and a café.
For members of the museum’s loyalty programme, children under 13 years, members of the International Council of Museums and The International Council on Monuments and Sites and for journalists, entry is free for themselves and a companion. Saadiyat Island, www.louvreabudhabi.ae (600 565 566).