Structure and design
The Louvre in Abu Dhabi was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. It is situated on Saadiyat Island Cultural District of the city and is twenty-four thousand square meters in size. A huge, silvery dome dominates the museum-city and is central to the vision of the architect, who told The New York Times last year that he wanted the new Louvre to belong to the geography. culture and identity of United Arab Emirates.Daylight view of the museum from the sea.
Authorities claim that the dome, at 7,500 tonnes, weighs as much as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and takes inspiration from the cupola, a small-dome like structure found on top of buildings built by Muslim visionaries throughout history. It is a geometric structure of 7,850 stars, arranged at certain angles to reflect sunlight inside the museum, creating a stunning display which aims to mirror the effect palm trees, found in different parts of the country, have on the ground.
Nouvel reportedly told the media last year that the dome he designed was inspired by the shade and open lattice of the mashrabiya, a screen that offers protection against the extreme sunlight in the Middle East, as well as privacy. The most visually pleasing part of the whole museum is, however, the fact that it is built into the sea. Located forty-eight meters above sea-level, the waters enter right into the museum, giving visitors the choice to arrive by either sea or land, and stirring a feeling unlike any other.View of the museum overlooking the sea.
Of the 55 buildings in the museum-city, 23 are exclusively devoted to galleries. In addition to these, there is an auditorium, a restaurant, an open plaza and a special museum just for children. The galleries are low-lying structures, mimicking the low-lying houses local populations in the desert live in. The whole relationship between the sea-faring people of the city and their art is meant to capture the emotional and intellectual essence of the area.
Orient meets Occident
The museum has tried very hard to focus on the universal values which unite humanity, according to government officials. From architecture which combines French design and Arabic heritage to trying to rise above cultural differences by displaying works of art which celebrate the shared accomplishments of humankind, the Abu Dhabi Louvre is a beacon of hope, learning and culture, authorities in UAE maintain.The Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi has arranged the art and artefacts on display inside the museum according to the era in which they were made, thereby adding an interesting dimension to the experience of visiting the establishment. Usually, museums around the world group pieces of art according to geography. There are also galleries devoted exclusively to exploring world religions, trade and even the concept of power.The story of humanity is told in twelve chapters, as nearly six hundred pieces of historic, cultural and artistic importance of different eras, from pre-history to the present day, are put together in galleries meant to inspire visitors to perceive the feats of the human race in an altogether different light.The first gallery portrays artefacts from the first villages which humans settled in the Near East and North Africa, the second one takes visitors through the accomplishments of the first great powers of human civilisation, and the third explores the influence of early empires and city-states.From there, one can traverse through the rise of world religions, the expansion of Asian trade routes and the increasing contact between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic as the centuries progressed. Galleries devoted to the art of living, the magnificence of kings and queens, and the concept of luxury are also present.Three buildings cater exclusively to modern pieces, and display exhibits from the modern and post-modern era, right up to the globalised world of today. In addition to visiting these galleries, one can also take a peek at different exhibitions happening in the museum all around the year. As the dome of the museum-city rains light, the different types of stones paved on the floor invite admiration, and the walls, some of which have inscriptions and artworks, are a sight to behold.
The Express Tribune photographed some of the more intriguing works of art on display at the museum for interested readers. A short explanation is provided with each image.A stunning portrait of French First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte, commissioned by the Spanish King of the time, elder brother of the French ruler, depicts Bonaparte crossing the Swiss Alps to lead the attack on Italy in the year 1800, a year after the end of the French revolution. It was made by Jacques-Louis David, a neoclassical French painter, sometime between 1801 and 1805.A beautiful oil painting, done on canvas, brings together different aspects of Ottoman culture, fusing Islam, knowledge and the mystery of the Orient. It was made by Osman Hamdi Bey, an Ottoman public administrator and painter trained in France, in the year 1878.
This oil painting is titled ‘The Subjugated Reader’ and was painted in Paris in the early twentieth century by Belgian artist Rene Magritte. The artist is famous for having created a number of thought-provoking images, including this one.
Celebrations and beyond
Louvre Abu Dhabi also held a beautiful ceremony to mark the one-year anniversary of the museum. Visitors were treated to live shows, special exhibitions and other festivities planned for the occasion.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, who heads the culture and tourism department responsible for overseeing the establishment, delivered a statement to the press which outlined a plan to develop the institution as one of the leading global cultural icons.
“One year ago we spoke about Louvre Abu Dhabi as Abu Dhabi’s gift to the world – and today we are proud to have shared it with more than one million visitors already,” read a press release issued on his behalf.
According to the document, Mubarak further said that Louvre Abu Dhabi had become an icon and a favourite destination in Abu Dhabi both for local communities and visitors to the city. “Our strong collaboration with our French and regional partners supports the museum’s mission to tell universal stories and we thank them.”
“Yet our greatest success, 10 years in the making, is the next generation of Emirati museum professionals who are trained to the highest standard in the cultural sector and are leaders in their field,” the statement added.
Mubarak praised the diversity of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s audiences, which, according to him, not only reflected Abu Dhabi’s multicultural society but also illustrated its ambition and universal narrative.
“Our aim to create bridges between cultures and nurture dialogue between communities, appeal to many, from seasoned art enthusiasts to younger audiences and families.”
Official figures claim that the museum has hosted more than 1,000 school trips, 5,000 guided tours, workshops and masterclasses, and programmed 115 special events from live performances to talks, film screenings and concerts in the first year.
Director Abu Dhabi Louvre Manuel Rabaté also issued a statement to the press to mark the one-year anniversary, in which he said that the establishment felt privileged to gather treasures under an iconic dome on Saadiyat island.
“We are also thrilled that so many visitors came to discover our universal narrative this year. We have access to some of the most incredible collections and benefit from collaborating with some of the world’s most qualified museum experts,” he said, adding, “But being a young museum in this region empowers us to be experimental and encourages us to be agile to appeal to our incredibly diverse audiences.”
A summary of the exhibitions planned for the coming year was also given to the media at the event, which will be based on the theme of change in society, and will feature art from cosmopolitan Paris of the early twentieth century, an exhibition focused on exploring the concept of luxury from antiquity to present times, as well as an exhibition honouring Charlie Chaplin and cinematic history.