Abu Dhabi’s art connect

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The opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi will mark a monumental moment in the history of the UAE and the art world

The Louvre Abu Dhabi (LAD) is truly an inspirational “gift to the world”. The opening of the museum in November will surely mark a monumental moment in the history of the UAE as well as the art world. Pritzker Prize winning French architect Jean Nouvel has designed a museum city under a vast silvery dome. Visitors can walk through the promenades overlooking the sea beneath the museum’s 180-metre dome, comprised of almost 8,000 unique metal stars set in a complex geometric pattern.

A dream come true

The Louvre is not actually a museum, but an island of museums. To be precise, it is an amalgation of desert sand, water, the sea and its horizons. The venture was first announced in 2007 and the LAD is one of four star architect-designed museums that will open on Saadiyat Island, a 27 sq km peninsula off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Frank Gehry’s striking design for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Pritzker prize-winning architectural firm Foster + Partners’ Zayed National Museum are also making themselves ready, alongside a number of high-end retail, hotel and residential developments.

His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and Tourism Development & Investment Company, said: “The museum represents the latest innovation in a long-standing tradition of cultural preservation nurtured by the founding leaders of the UAE.”

Notable works of art

When it comes to the collections, the curators have pulled together a commendable job. The museum’s permanent galleries will present alongside the museum’s own collection of some 300 works from 13 key French institutions. Highlights include Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452-1519) La Belle Ferronnière (on loan from musée du Louvre); Vincent van Gogh’s (1853-1890) 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 (1650-1718) of Bibliothèque nationale de France; a pair of gui vessels (Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet); Jacques-Louis David’s (1748–1825) Napoleon Crossing the Alps (Château de Versailles), among others.

Jean Nouvel, the architect of LAD, says: “It is an architecture that is protective of its treasures, it is a homage to the Arab city, to its poetry in geometry and light, and, under the large cupola, it is an evocation of the temporalities which inexorably punctuate the hours, days and the passing of our lives.”

Signature effect

The dome of Louvre is made up of 7,800 geometrical shapes of varying sizes and angles that filter sunshine in a manner that Nouvel describes as ‘rain of light’. The rain of light is the product of an intricate 180-metre-wide, 12,000-tonne, 400,000-part canopy whose complexity derives directly from Nouvel’s desire to create just such an effect.

Words: Neil McGowan; Photography: Mohamed Somji

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