Thu, Nov 09, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Louvre Abu Dhabi opens after decade in the works


People visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi at a pre-opening event on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA

More than a decade in the making, the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors yesterday, bringing the famed name to the Arab world for the first time.

The opening comes a decade after France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) agreed to a 30-year partnership initially reported to be worth US$1.1 billion, including nearly half a billion dollars for the rights to the Louvre brand alone.

French President Emmanuel Macron was to be among those attending last night’s opening, along with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and other leaders including Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.

The museum design, by France’s Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, conjures up the image of an Arab medina as seen through the eyes of a contemporary cinematographer.

A silver-toned dome with perforated arabesque patterns appears to float over the white galleries, creating what Nouvel describes as a “rain of light.”

To reach the ground, each ray of light must cross eight layers of perforations, creating a constantly shifting pattern that mimics the shadows cast by palm trees or the roof of a traditional Arab market.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first of three museums to open on Saadiyat Island, where the UAE plans to launch the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, and the Norman Foster’s Zayed National Museum.

About 5 percent of the museum, which is to open to the public on Saturday, is dedicated to contemporary and modern art, including a monumental piece by Ai Weiwei (艾未未).

However, the main focus is on world history and religions.

Among the exhibits are a sixth century Koran, a gothic Bible and a Yemeni Torah, facing each other and open at verses carrying the same message.

Jean-Luc Martinez, president of the Louvre in Paris, said the new museum was designed “to open up to others, to understand diversity” in “a multipolar world.”

It has about 300 pieces on loan, including an 1887 self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronniere.

The Gulf emirate has also spent years quietly building its own permanent collection.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is displaying more than 235 works of art from the Emirati collection, including Edouard Manet’s The Gypsy and works by Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian and Turkey’s Osman Hamdi Bey.

Authorities have put in place strict measures to protect the art from the heat in a nation where summer temperatures soar well above 40°C. The artworks are also guarded by Emirati forces in coordination with French experts.

The project initially sparked heated debate in France, where criticism erupted over the sale of a French name to an Arab state.

Questions of labor rights have also hung over the project, linked to the overall status of migrant workers in the Gulf.

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