• 2 Nov 2017
This photograph taken by Mohamed Somji offers a view on Louvre Abu Dhabi's exterior. The building was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s exterior © Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji

After more than 10 years of study and work, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will be inaugurated on November 11th, 2017. As a result of an intergovernmental agreement between the United Arab Emirates and France in 2007, the museum becomes the first universal museum in the Arab world. An unprecedented collaboration between history, culture and civilizations.

A museum at the crossroads of civilizations

For many years, Abu Dhabi has been redefining its economy, with a special attention to cultural and tourism, in which the Louvre Abu Dhabi project is positioned.

From the Parisian Louvre, the Abu Dhabi one has only preserved the name and the greatness. Unlike Western museums, classifying works by civilizations, the Louvre of Abu Dhabi offers an unusual curation, highlighting universal themes and common influences between civilizations. From the “Great hall”, the starting point where fundamental themes such as maternity and death are evoked, the visitor crosses chronological and thematic galleries, subdivided into 12 chapters.

The strength of the Louvre of Abu Dhabi is its aim to reflect the interaction of cultures and the common history of mankind through ancient and contemporary works of art from all over the world, inside and outside, connecting the museum to its environment.

An exceptional feat and architectural achievement

This photograph taken by Mohamed Somji represents the Louvre Abu Dhabi's patio entitled "Rain of Light". The building was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Rain of Light © Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji

With its 64,000 sq on Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, envisioned and designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, winner of the Pritzker Prize, takes the form of a madina (a traditional town in the Orient countries). Overlooking the sea, the city-museum is covered by a silver dome of 180 meters in diameter, made up of 8,000 metallic stars, drawing a geometric shape. Crossed by the sun’s rays, the dome reflects a subtle “rain of light” that is reminiscent of the surrounding palm groves.

In addition to the 23 permanent galleries and the temporary exhibition space, the site hosts a museum dedicated to children, an auditorium, food outlets, a shop and a research center.

A collection at the crossroads of the Arts

From Prehistory through the Middle Age to Modern Times, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a journey through time and space. Rich and eclectic, the collection consists of 600 ancient and modern pieces, of which 300 loaned by 13 French institutions and museums, such as La Belle Ferronniere by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) exhibited at the Louvre Museum, a Self-Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) from the Musée d’Orsay and la Femme debout II by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), borrowed from the Georges Pompidou Center. According to the agreement between Abu Dhabi and France, these works are the object of a loan of 10 years pending the enrichment of the permanent collection of Abu Dhabi.

In addition to these masterpieces, the permanent collection of the new museum will consist of structures specially commissioned and designed by distinguished contemporary artists. The Italian Giuseppe Penone, among others, designed Leaves of Light, a giant bronze tree – reminiscent of the artist’s fascination with this theme – which mirrored branches reflect the incredible “light rain”.

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Article by Nick Leech for The National on November 14th, 2017