What does the newly opened Louvre mean for Abu Dhabi?

After years of anticipation, the jewel in the crown of Saadiyat Island’s cultural district is finally opening its doors

Louvre Abu Dhabi

‘Germination’ by Giuseppe Penone © Louvre Abu Dhabi. PHOTO Roland Halbe

When ground was broken on 26th May 2009, one of the most ambitious projects in the history of the UAE took roots.

Now, eight years on, Louvre Abu Dhabi is about to share an awe-inspiring experience with visitors from around the world for the very first time.

But there’s more to the museum than exhibitions and attractions.

Inspiring generations

“Today is a beginning, but it is not the beginning,” said Hissa Al Dhaheri, deputy director of Louvre Abu Dhabi.

“Since Louvre Abu Dhabi was announced it had a ripple effect on the community.

“There has been a notable increase in programmes at universities, in terms of museum studies, cultural studies and art. The museum, before its opening, has had an effect on society.”

Aiming to instil an admiration of the arts and culture in the community and share it with a new generation, Louvre Abu Dhabi is already a landmark in the UAE and the region.

In line with the nation’s ambitious aims to establish the capital as a cultural centre, the museum is a huge step towards creating a legacy that can be enjoyed by future generations.

“Inspiring the cultural and creative professionals of the future is one of the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s most central aims,” Hissa continued.

“It is our greatest achievement today and it will be our legacy, seeing families have meaningful interactions and talks about art, culture and civilisation.

“It’s a place where the youth can come explore and express themselves. What we are hoping to do is ignite imagination and curiosity.

“Louvre Abu Dhabi will encourage more young people in the region to explore careers in culture and creative industries by offering institutional excellence.”

In fact, the cultural centre has already made an impact: Two thirds of the staff at Louvre Abu Dhabi are Emirati, working as curators, conservators, researchers, education specialists and in other capacities.

But what can you expect to see when you visit the museum for the first time?

PHOTO Marc Domage

PHOTO Marc Domage

On display

“When we open Louvre Abu Dhabi, guests from all over the world will enter and feel connected, feel one with each other and one with this world,” said HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism.

“Almost every single person in this world has something at this museum, a piece, an artefact or a painting that speaks directly to them.”

With 55 individual buildings, including a children’s museum and 26 permanent galleries, visitors can explore themes including the first villages, universal religions, civilisations and empires, cosmography, challenging modernity and more.

The first exhibition, opening 21st December, is From One Louvre to Another: Opening a Museum for Everyone, which will see 150 paintings, sculptures and pieces from Musée du Louvre and Château de Versailles take centre stage.

However, the building itself, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, is also something of a work of art, paying homage to traditional Emirati culture with an ambitious modern twist.

Already iconic, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s dome creates a geometric constellation of more than 7,000 stars and will invoke nostalgic memories for those who remember the UAE before it became a modern metropolis.

“When you’re standing under the dome and you’re seeing these rays of light hitting the dome and reflecting on you, we tend to remember our past, in Al Ain under the oasis, surrounded by thousands of date trees,” Mohamed added.

“I’m extremely proud to share our vision. Today, culture wins – that has been the strategy from day one.

“This is not a place, it’s not a person, it’s a culture. We truly believe culture will make a better future and a better generation.”

Louvre Abu Dhabi opens on 11th November. Online tickets are sold out for this date but a limited number will be available at the venue.

Concerts to celebrate the opening week will be held nightly from 11th to 14th November, with appearances from M, Fatoumata Diawara, Ibrahim Maalouf and Totó La Mompósina.
AED 200 for concerts, AED 60 for day pass, free for children under 13 years. Cultural District, Saadiyat Island. 10am-8pm. Contact: louvreabudhabi.ae

WORDS Colin Armstrong

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