Jewels in the Desert: The Lourve Museum Opens in Abu Dhabi
September 10, 2018
On top of the over one billion euros to establish The Louvre in Abu Dhabi, funders paid four million euros to name the museum in the UAE after the Paris institution that houses a collection bringing together the wealth of eastern and western civilizations
Another Address for the Louvre
It was a five-minute drive from the city center to the Saadiyat Cultural District where a cluster of 55 buildings situate a developing hub of arts and culture. There are galleries in these structures, each with a distinct charm.
Spanning two years of construction with a seemingly unlimited budget, this much-awaited museum, which enlisted some 800 employees at a time, was launched in a fabulous grand opening attended by royalty and aristocracy, presidents and prime ministers, global industry leaders, and personalities and celebrities. It was, after all, the first time that the Louvre brand had an address outside of France. However, the Louvre in Paris, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi remain as separate establishments although bound by certain linkages such as art exchanges of 200 to 300 pieces a year.
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Light and Stars
The majestic plaza had a spellbinding Rain of Light from the ceiling. Over eight layers of stainless steel and aluminum cladding, which acted as a welcome shade, produced approximately 8,000 scattered, hallowed stars. These decorated the walkways with limited sunlight as shifting ornaments.
It took a gentleman of infinite imagination to transform 7,700 tons of different materials into a monumental creation of 180 meters in diameter and 565 meters in circumference. Jean Nouvel, the Pritzer Prize Award-winning and much sought-after architect made it possible.
Inside are 12 galleries that share a unique omniscient perspective into the history of mankind told through never-found-anywhere-else exclusive art pieces. These are displayed in different locations covering the same periods, providing contrasts and comparisons of civilizations at various time frames in the archives of eras past.
The Great Vestibule presented ancient artifacts unearthed from different archaeological sites, yet highlighted the same themes: sun patterns, writing instruments, death masks, and even maternity figures such as Phemba from the Yombe culture of the Congo.
The First Villages were about the communities established on common beliefs, such as bonding and rituals. We were aghast at the Monumental Statue with Two Heads dated 6500 BCE from Jordan.
Faith of Nations
The First Great Powers chronicled the boom of influence, notably around the rivers of Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, Indus, and the Yellow. A diorite sculpture of King Ramesses II from the 19th dynasty of Ancient Egypt was a popular stop. Civilizations and Empires brought about the eventual domination of kingdoms and armies over various regions. We found the Portrait of Fayoum intriguing, for reasons too many to mention.
The Universal Religions showcased the Qur’an, the Torah, and the Bible, side by side in a rare harmonious display, and told the spread of organized faiths and how it shaped modern society. The Asian Trade Routes tackled the inventions of China such as porcelain, paper, and gunpowder, and how it influenced the Arab-Muslim world. A Head of Buddha made of white marble from Northern China exemplified the sophistication of their customs.
From the Mediterranean to the Atlantic revealed the breaking down of borders as the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic World, and Christian Europe exchanged ideas and adapted each other’s cultures. Any Madonna and Child portrait never fails to grab our attention, and such was the work of Giovanni Bellini.
The World In Perspective traced how interactions became inspirations for mathematical and scientific advancements, provided artists an aesthetic model, which presented the human anatomy in diverse perspectives. Such an example was Leonardo da Vinci’s Woman Portrait. Personally, if the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile is to The Louvre in Paris, then La Belle Ferroniere’s playful smirk is the muse of The Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Kingdoms and the Modern World
The Magnificence of the Court established the growing tensions between kingdoms and empires, where monarchs wooed the best artisans to create opulent, palatial edifices as a testimony of power and wealth. The Turban Helmet conveyed the luxurious lives of the ruling class. A New Art of Living focused on the private spheres during The Enlightenment, which magnified the importance of individuals and their contributions to history. Napoleon Bonaparte was a standout of this revolutionary time.
A Modern World? described the rise of technology and how it challenged and stimulated designers to approach the field in brand new perspectives. Vincent Van Gogh’s Self-Portait took on a new art style. Challenging Modernity dwelt on life after the two World Wars, the decolonization of nations, and radical movements, to include abstractionism and the avant-garde. The Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow, and Black by Piet Mondrian boggled our minds in its simplicity.
A Global Stage brought us back to the present, wherein the internet transformed the entire planet into just one big village. Due to the economic rise in most continents, the maestros have taken it upon themselves to push a multicultural, existential movement, no longer bound by outside influences.
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Christ and the Orb
Tourists and art enthusiasts keep a continuous flow through the exhibits of obra maestras. The numbers will likely escalate when The Louvre Abu Dhabi uncovers the new paragon which is the polymath Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. This depiction of Christ holding the world, has set the bar high for being the most expensive auctioned art piece at a whopping $450 million.
This cultural district is set to debut two more museums of note, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, soon-to-be largest iteration of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation and the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, a solar-powered memorial to Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding president of the UAE. The intention for the latter is to highlight the history, culture, and the economic transformation of the Emirates.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum is open Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10AM to 8PM, Thursdays and Fridays from 10AM to 10PM. It is closed on Mondays