Ten years ago, the United Arab Emirates and France signed an intergovernmental agreement to develop the first universal museum in the arab world. The alliance would establish Louvre Abu Dhabi as an independent institution, and includes the use of Musée du Louvre’s name for the next 30 years. Now, a decade later, the much anticipated Jean Nouvel-designed museum is opening its doors to the public for the first time.
Louvre Abu Dhabi is a universal museum on Saadiyat Island that exhibits art and artefacts from ancient times to the present day in order to celebrate cultural exchange and diversity. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the museum represents an Arab madina (city) with its 23 permanent galleries, temporary exhibition space, Children’s Museum, auditorium, restaurants, retail and a research centre. Surrounded by the sea, visitors can walk the promenades beneath the museum’s stunning dome. They can experience Nouvel’s enchanting ‘rain of light’, inspired by the shadows of overlapping palm trees in the UAE’s precious oases where travellers once crossed paths.
Art works on display originate from civilisations all over the world. They have been brought together to highlight universal themes and similar influences. This marks a departure from many traditional Western museums which clearly separate objects from different civilisations. Themes at Louvre Abu Dhabi include: the portrayal of power; the representation of the divine; exploring unknown lands; and the dawn of globalisation. Louvre Abu Dhabi has acquired more than 620 objects to date including individual works, series and collections. Some of these will be exhibited alongside 300 works on loan from 13 leading French institutions.
Louvre Abu Dhabi was born of an intergovernmental agreement between the governments of Abu Dhabi and France in 2007. The agreement stipulates that the name of Louvre is on loan for a period of 30 years; art works from French institutions for 10 years on a decreasing basis as the permanent collection grows; and the programming of temporary exhibitions for 15 years.