LOUVRE ABU DHABI: We speak to newly commissioned artist

From Paris to Abu Dhabi, the Louvre is all set to make its mark on the capital when it opens its doors in 2017.

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And at the forefront of the buzz surrounding the new artistic venture is Italian Giuseppe Penone, one of the first artists commissioned to create an installation alongside Jenny Holzer.

From trees made resplendent cast in metal to tumbled stones, soil and clay, Giuseppe’s work is known for being a meditation on man’s intrinsic connection with nature and culture.

“Man is nature,” mused Penone. “Art is the language used by human beings as a means of survival. It’s also to convey the messages of, not only an individual but on a collective level.”

His four-part Louvre installation, Germination, will follow this concept.

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“An artwork has to be productive – that’s where the title Germination comes from,” he explained. “It’s like it’s springing up to generate vitality.

“For me, it was obviously a great moment to have my work as one of the first installations in the museum. Not only do my installations coincide with the idea of a birth of a new museum, but it’s linked to an idea of the cultural vitality that the artwork produces.”

The centrepiece for Giuseppe’s installation will be a tree cast in bronze, hung with fragments of mirror shards that refract and reflect the light let in by the museum’s iconic dome.

“Leaves of Light (pictured, left) comes from an idea in my early drawings in 1968,” explained Giuseppe. “When I saw the location and the Louvre’s dome, I thought it would integrate perfectly with the architecture of the museum.

“My artwork in this respect isn’t in contrast, but is actually integrated with the structure of the museum and is a continuity with the surrounding architecture.”

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While the upcoming installations are designed to work in harmony with the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s unique architecture, how will they inscribe new meaning on Abu Dhabi’s existing cultural landscape?

“One of my installations comes as a physical answer to this question,” Giuseppe answered. “I started from a fingerprint of Sheikh Zayed, and from there I developed it into a drawing that occupies the space. Sheikh Zayed had a clear vision of not only his individual identity, but a cultural identity for this country. He supported it, and embraced it into a global context.”

“In another of my installations, you’ll see a handful of soil from all parts of the world: Africa, Asia – and Abu Dhabi itself,” he added. “It’s the idea of integration between different cultures and different individuals.”

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