Louvre Abu Dhabi

New universal museum to welcome visitors from November

Published: 14 September 2017, Text by: Richard Augustin

History buffs and art lovers will want to make a visit to Abu Dhabi towards the end of the year because the Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to open its doors to the public on 11 November 2017. It is the first museum of its kind in the Arab world: a universal museum that focuses on shared human stories across civilisations and cultures.

Located in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Pritzker Prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel has designed a museum city (Arab medina) under a vast silvery dome. Visitors can walk through the promenades overlooking the sea beneath the museum's 180-metre dome, comprised of almost 8,000 unique metal stars set in a complex geometric pattern.

When sunlight filters through, it creates a moving 'rain of light' beneath the dome, reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the UAE's oases.

Louvre Abu Dhabi's story will begin in the "Great Vestibule", where visitors are introduced to important themes such as maternity and funerary rituals. The dialogue between works from different geographical territories, sometimes far apart, highlights similarities between the canons despite each having its own mode of expression.

Displays include works from the earliest empires, including the first figurative representations, such as the Bactrian Princess created in Central Asia at the end of the 3rd Millennium BCE, funerary practices of ancient Egypt illustrated by a set sarcophagi of Princess Henuttawy, and the creation of new economies with a Decadrachm coin of Syracuse signed by the artist Euainetos.

A gallery dedicated to universal religions will feature sacred texts: a Leaf from the "Blue Quran", a Gothic Bible, a Pentateuch and texts from Buddhism and Taoism. The artistic exchanges on the trading routes during the Medieval and Modern periods are brought to the fore through an important number of ceramic works.

In the galleries, important artworks on loan from 13 leading museums in France will be presented. Highlights include Leonardo da Vinci's (1452–1519) La Belle Ferronnière (on loan from musée du Louvre); Vincent van Gogh's (1853–1890) self-portrait (musée d'Orsay et de l'Orangerie) and a rare ivory saltcellar from the Benin Empire (musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac).

The inaugural special exhibition, From One Louvre to Another: opening a museum for everyone, opens on 21 December 2017, and traces the history of Musée du Louvre in Paris. Divided into three sections, the exhibition will look at the royal collections at Versailles under King Louis XIV, followed by the residency of the Academy and Salons in this palace for artists, and conclude with the creation of the modern Musée du Louvre.

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