Robert Harneis-TDO- (FRANCE) The Louvre Abu Dhabi, a satellite of the Paris Louvre, opens to the public on Saturday 11th November Works of art from France—and around the world—will go on view.
Originally planned for 2012, the project was delayed by the 2008 financial crisis.
Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel—who won the Pritzker Prize in 2008 and previously masterminded Paris’s Institut du Monde Arabe —the museum will be the first of several planned cultural institutions to arrive on Saadiyat Island. All will have high profile architecture, with a Guggenheim expected from Frank Gehry; a performing arts center from the late Zaha Hadid; a maritime museum from Tadao Ando; and a museum devoted to the history of the U.A.E. and its founder, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, from Norman Foster.
The aim is to make Saadiyat—and, thus, Abu Dhabi—a cultural focus, that will entice travelers to stay and visit the city, and not just fly through en route to other destinations.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, features a 23-gallery museum city, modeled on a traditional medina, sitting under a low silver dome that’s almost 600 feet in diameter. This massive metal roof is made up of nearly 8,000 star shapes, each of them unique. These are placed in a complicated pattern that allows light to filter down into the interiors, resulting in shadows and highlights meant to resemble those made by sunlight passing through palm fronds.
Conceived as a ‘universal museum’, rather than an ‘encyclopedic museum,’ like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or the original Louvre, the Louvre Abu Dhabi presents its holdings chronologically and thematically, rather than geographically. This means that ancient objects created by early civilizations in Central Asia, Egypt, and Europe, for example, will all be seen together, as will works related to a variety of world religions, from Islam to Judaism, Christianity to Buddhism and Taoism. The idea is to cover the entire globe, and the whole of human history, and to show connections between different locations and peoples.
The museum’s holdings are from a variety of sources, primarily long-term loans from the Louvre in Paris and 12 other French national museums, including art by Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Rodin, and Alberto Giacometti. But pieces have also come from the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
The museum itself, meanwhile, has amassed its own wholly owned holdings, which now number more than 600 pieces. A highlight of these—which was also the museum’s first acquisition—is a Piet Mondrian that formerly belonged to Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. The museum bought it at Christie’s in 2009 for a record breaking 21 million euros.
The first exhibition after the initial opening, will be the December 21 opening of its first temporary show, “From One Louvre to Another,” which traces the creation of the Musée du Louvre in Paris.