A New Louvre

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s exterior with Abu Dhabi’s skyline (night) © Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji

Ten years in the making, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will finally open its doors to visitors this November with an epic “museum city” on Saadiyat Island. This enormous complex has been designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, who conceived it as a cultural archipelago complete with a breathtaking latticed dome known as the “rain of light,” which was inspired by traditional Islamic cupolas.

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s ‘rain of light’ © Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji

Visitors will be able to arrive by land or sea and wander the “streets” of this cultural enclave, which features a children’s museum and research centre in addition to the main museum. Just under half of the 55 individual buildings are dedicated galleries, which will house both the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, along with commissions by Giuseppe Penone and Jenny Holzer. The latter collaborated with Nouvel to create a piece that exists within the architectural facade. “To build Holzer’s work into the very skin of the building is not decoration,” says museum director Manuel Rabaté. “It is the best way to illustrate the strength of her involvement.”

View overlooking the sea © Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji

With the ambitious goal of becoming “the national museum of the Emirates,” the Louvre Abu Dhabi will survey everything from prehistory to contemporary art, beginning with 300 objects taken from its own collection, complemented by another 300 loans from leading French institutions. These include Édouard Manet’s The Fife Player, 1866, from the Centre Pompidou, and Auguste Rodin’s Bacchus in the Vat, modelled in 1904 and cast in 1925, from the Musée Rodin.

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s exterior © Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji

Further support from French institutions has been promised far into the future, with museums offering four exhibitions annually for the next fifteen years. The first major show will focus on the 18th-century workings of the Louvre and the Paris museum’s relationship to this new cultural endeavour in the United Arab Emirates.

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