Thu, Sep 07, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Long-delayed Louvre Abu Dhabi to open in November

AFP, ABU DHABI

A handout photograph taken on May 24 last year by Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Development and Investment Co (TDIC) shows Abu Dhabi’s Louvre museum, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.

Photo: AFP/ TDIC

The Louvre Abu Dhabi will finally open its doors to the public in November, bringing to the Gulf Mesopotamian artifacts and post-impressionist masterpieces in the first Louvre-branded museum outside of Paris.

Housing 600 works of art, including 300 loaned by 13 French museums for the inaugural year, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is described as the “first universal museum” in the Arab world.

“At a time when culture is under attack ... this is our joint response,” French Minister of Culture Francoise Nyssen said yesterday at a news conference in Abu Dhabi to announce the Nov. 11 opening date.

The museum has been a decade in the making and is opening five years behind schedule.

Among the works on loan to Abu Dhabi are Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronniere from the Louvre and Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait from the Musee d’Orsay.

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel of France, the “museum city” is reminiscent of an Arab medina, enveloped by a part arabesque, part futuristic silvery dome that lets in the light in patterns mimicking leaves of the palm trees of the Gulf.

While the Louvre Abu Dhabi will not lack its Rodins and Gaugins, for some, the real heart of the museum is in its narration of ancient civilizations through artifacts acquired by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The planned opening comes a decade after France and the UAE agreed on a 30-year partnership worth US$1.1 billion under which many top French museums will loan art to Abu Dhabi.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to attend the inauguration of the museum, which had originally been scheduled to open in 2012.

The “complex, ambitious project,” in the words of museum director Manuel Rabate, has faced delays in funding and construction.

The decision to grant Abu Dhabi the rights to the Louvre name sparked heated debate in France, with critics accusing the museum of “selling its soul” and questioning the emirate’s record on labor rights.

“Yes, it’s exceptional. Yes, this is the first time a project like this launches in the Middle East, but that’s what’s unique to this project,” Rabate said in response to the criticism.

He sought to allay concerns about the transportation of the art and the conditions in which it will be stored, in a country where temperatures soar well above 40oC in the summer.

“Their protection is vital to us and we have made sure we have the systems in place to protect them against the environmental conditions,” Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority chairman Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak said.

“The museum’s galleries are operated by sophisticated climate controls for humidity, temperature and light and during installation, the works are in environmentally protected crates and cases to make sure they are not affected by outside conditions,” he said.

Guarded by Emirati forces, in coordination with French experts, including civil defense and terrorism security forces, the art is protected by “state-of-the-art security systems and procedures, in line with international standards,” he added.

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