Atrip to an art gallery might not exactly be at the top of any kid’s list of “fun” things to do, but we believe a little culture never hurt anyone.
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. So what (your kids might ask)? Well, the hugely ambitious collaboration between France and the UAE is part of a cultural strategy to drive creativity and tourism in the region. In other words, the powers that be want us (including our budding Banksys who just love scribbling “art” all over the walls) to be inspired by this permanent collection of global works.
The Louvre has found a canny way of enticing younger artists through its doors by creating the Children’s Museum, which is set over two floors at the heart of the venue and will host family-focused exhibitions and interactive workshops in Arabic and English. What’s more, entry for the under-13s and one companion is completely free.
Suited for kids aged six to 12, the aim of it is to teach youngsters about artistic techniques and ideas. The space is perfect for both family visits and school groups and its first exhibition, Travelling Shapes and Colours, will explore many themes that will engage kids and hopefully prove inspirational to them.
As for the rest of the museum, of the 600 pieces on display, half will be on loan from 13 of France’s top cultural institutions. However, proving the diversity of the collection, there will also be an array of artefacts from the rest of the world, including a 6th century BCE Buddha head and an Ottoman helmet.
The painting collection will 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 will also be works from renowned Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, Belgian surrealist René Magritte, Turkish artist Osman Hamdy Bey, French post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin, innovative 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 that Paris institution and the Château de Versailles.
The main exhibition areas at Louvre Abu Dhabi 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 pieces 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.
The universal themes and ideas used to categorise the items mark a departure from more 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. And in addition to the galleries, the complex houses the Children’s Museum, a restaurant, boutique and café.
From Dhs30 (free for under-13s). Saadiyat Island, www.louvreabudhabi.ae (600 565 566).