A new Louvre has just opened in Abu Dhabi and it is architecturally stunning. France and the United Arab Emirates signed an intergovernmental agreement in 2007 to create the first universal museum in the Arab realm. The agreement launches Louvre Abu Dhabi as an independent establishment but allows for the use of the name Musée du Louvre’s for 30 years and 6 months.
At this architectural jewel, you 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. When sunlight filters through, it creates a moving ‘rain of light’ beneath the dome, reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the UAE’s oases.
The Architecture: Rain of light
Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, who conceived Louvre Abu Dhabi stated, “It is rather unusual to find a built archipelago in the sea. It is even more uncommon to see that it is protected by a parasol creating a rain of light.
“The possibility of accessing the museum by boat or finding a pontoon to reach it by foot from the shore is equally extraordinary, before being welcomed like a much-awaited visitor willing to see unique collections, linger in tempting bookstores, or taste local teas, coffees and delicacies. It is both a calm and complex place.”
The centrepiece is a silvery dome that appears to float over the entire museum-city, weighing a hefty 7500 tonnes. The dome is a major symbol in Arab architecture, but in this case it is also a modern statement. The double dome is 180 metres in diameter and offers perfectly radiating geometry. The random perforations provide bursts of sunlight through the shaded woven material.
The art exhibited in the 6,400 square metres of galleries features a growing collection of treasures with more than 620 important pieces from around the world.
The Great Vestibule focuses on pieces from early civilisations: death masks, water containers, figures at prayer and more. Gallery 1: The First Villages, centers around art from East Africa, the Near East, China and Central America where the first settlements domesticated animals and plants for the first time and human depictions are of female figures showing their obsession with fertility.
Galery 2: The First Great Powers, which emerged in the valleys of the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, Indus and Yellow River, brought about bronze axes, swords, armour, and emblems of prestige. Then Mesopotamia and Egypt gave birth to the first cities. Gallery 3: Civilisations and Empires, explores pieces from the Assyrian and Persian empires, the Mediterranean basis, and the Nok and Olmec cultures of West Africa and Mesoamerica.
Gallery 4: Universal Religions, the spread of universal religions like Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam transformed ancient societies. And lastly, Gallery 5: Asian Trade Routes, the invention of porcelain, gunpowder, paper and printing changed the world. Trade between Asia, Europe and Africa brought about a golden age of arts and sciences.
Now open, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is definitely worth visiting.