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UAE’s GIFT TO THE WORLD
November 10, 2017
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Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first museum of its kind in the Arab region which offers a new perspective on the history of art in a globalised world, opens to the public on Saturday.

An iconic architectural masterpiece designed by Jean Nouvel, it is located on the waterfront in Abu Dhabi’s cultural district on Saadiyat Island. The inaugural installation in its spacious collection galleries will present 600 works of art, half from its own rich holdings, and half consisting of stellar works visiting from its 13 partner museums in France. The museum will also begin an ongoing programme of special exhibitions in December.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is the result of a unique collaboration between Abu Dhabiand France.

The museum’s collection spans the history of humanity and will explore a universal narrative through artworks and artefacts from all over the world. The inaugural installation will take visitors on a chronological journey from prehistory to the present day, encompassing 12 chapters including the birth of the first villages, universal religions, cosmography, the magnificence of the royal court and the modern world.

 The must-see pieces of Art

1: Page of the ‘Blue Quran’
The page, from one of the oldest-ever-found Qurans, sits in a darkened room near a Gothic Bible, Buddhist sutras and a Torah from Yemen. It’s part of the museum’s theme of showing what’s universal among peoples of the world. The Blue Quran dates from around 900 and was discovered in North Africa.

2: Monumental Statue with Two Heads
This plaster statue, dating to around 6,500 B.C., and discovered in Ain Ghazal, Jordan, is one of the oldest known in human history. It’s among the earliest large-scale representations of human form. The settlement in which it was found, spread across 30 acres along the Zarqa River, was one of the largest known Neolithic settlements in the Near East.

3: Portrait of a Woman, called La Belle Ferronniere
This is one of some 15 pieces of art known to exist today from the Renaissance master, Leonardo da Vinci. Dating to around 1495, the painting is thought to be of Lucrezia Crivelli, a mistress of the Duke of Milan Ludovico Sforza. The clothes the woman is wearing, her position and the smoothness of the painting all reflect the style of the Renaissance.

4: The Saint-Lazare Station
This Claude Monet painting from 1877 came during the Industrial Revolution. Monet, known as the father of Impressionism, often painted railway stations, modern life and urban landscapes during this period. His signature brushstrokes and the effects of colour can be seen in it.

5: Fountain of Light
The Louvre Abu Dhabi commissioned this chandelier-inspired installation from Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The 7-metre (23-foot) piece of art is made of stainless steel and glass. It’s inspired by the Tatlin Tower, a utopian project that was meant to be built in Russia in 1919 but never was.

Agence France-Presse
Architect Jean Nouvel has designed Louvre Abu Dhabi as a museum city (medina) which combines traditional Arabic inspiration with contemporary design and cutting-edge energy-efficient engineering. Visitors can walk along promenades overlooking the sea underneath the iconic dome, comprising 7,850 unique metal stars set in a complex geometric pattern. When sunlight filters through, it creates a moving ‘rain of light’, reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the UAE’s oases.

The collection

Presented across 6,400 square metres of galleries, the museum’s growing collection includes more than 600 important artworks and artefacts, approximately half of which will be presented for the opening year. It includes ancient archaeological finds, decorative arts, neoclassical sculptures, paintings by modern masters and contemporary installations.

Ancient masterpieces from the collection include a Bactrian Princess created in Central Asia at the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, a Grecian sphinx from the 6th century BCE and an Iranian gold bracelet in the shape of a lion. Visitors encounter works from universal religions, including sacred texts such as a Leaf from the “Blue Quran” and a Gothic Bible, as well as a Standing Bodhisattva from the 2nd or 3rd century and a white marble Head of Buddha from China.

Highlights from later periods include an ancient astrolabe, part of a display showing the science of cosmography; a red Chinese lacquer chest of drawers produced in France by Bernard II van Risenburgh, which shows the cross-cultural inspirations born from global trade routes; and Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child, representing the emergence of religious art and iconography.

Works such as a Bronze Oba head from the Benin Kingdom and Jacob Jordaens’ The Good Samaritan demonstrate the magnificence of royal courts around the world.

A series of iconic paintings captures the emergence of the modern world, including Gustave Caillebotte’s Game of Bezique, Edouard Manet’s The Gypsy, Paul Gauguin’s Children Wrestling, Osman Hamdi Bey’s A Young Emir Studying, Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black, René Magritte’s The Subjugated Reader and Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of a Lady.

The museum’s contemporary art collection has nine canvases by Cy Twombly and a monumental sculpture by renowned international artist Ai Weiwei. As part of an ongoing programme of commissions, Jenny Holzer and Giuseppe Penone have created monumental site-specific installations, exhibited under the dome in open air and embedded in Louvre Abu Dhabi’s architecture.

Sharing art and expertise

As part of the intergovernmental agreement between the UAE and France, Louvre Abu Dhabi has access to expertise and training from 17 French partner institutions. It will also benefit from the ability to borrow works of art from 13 leading French museums for 10 years, and from special exhibitions organised by these institutions for 15 years.

At opening, 300 works from French partner museums are on display. Some highlights include Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière (Musée du Louvre); Vincent van Gogh’s Self-Portrait (Musée d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie); a rare ivory saltcellar from the Benin Empire (Musée du quai Branly - Jacques Chirac); a Globe by Vincenzo Coronelli (Bibliothèque Nationale de France); a pair of gui vessels (Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet); Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon Crossing the Alps (Château de Versailles); Auguste Rodin’s Jean d’Aire from the group The Burghers of Calais (Musée Rodin); a 13th-century reliquary chest (Musée de Cluny - Musée National du Moyen Âge); a Chinese ewer of Persian shape (Musée des Arts Décoratifs); a breastplate from Marmesse (Musée d’Archéologie Nationale - Saint Germain en Laye); the sculpture Apollo Belvedere by Primatice (Château de Fontainebleau); and Standing Woman II by Alberto Giacometti (Centre Pompidou).

Additional works from regional and UAE institutions will be on view at Louvre Abu Dhabi at the time of the opening. The National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah provides key objects including a pendant dating back to 2000-1800 BCE and a painted Neolithic vase, discovered on the 8,000-year-old settlement on Marawah Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Al Ain National Museum lends an important fragment of stucco from an ancient church in Abu Dhabi’s Sir Bani Yas Island.

Highlights of objects borrowed from within the region include a prehistoric stone tool dating back to 350,000 BCE, a milestone indicating the distance from Makkah in Kufic inscriptions and a funerary stele dating back to 700–900 CE from the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage; a collection of over 400 silver dirham coins from the National Museum – Sultanate of Oman; and an 8,000-year-old, two-headed figure from Jordan’s Department of Antiquities called the Ain Ghazal Statue.

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