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Welcome to a world of travel, entertainment and culture, curated from a global collective of writers, photojournalists and artists. Each article of our award-winning magazine is sure to inspire, no matter which of our destinations you call home.
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Travel to Dubai


The Crossroads of Civilisations

6 November 2017

A lot has happened since the groundbreaking announcement of Louvre Abu Dhabi. I mean, a lot does happen in 10 years; so more than anything it was perhaps a collective sigh of relief that greeted news of its November 11 opening.

That exhale of breath swiftly gave way to anticipation, of course, and while the opening draws a line in the sand following years of hard work and endeavour, it also signals a new, perhaps even bigger challenge ahead: the search for greatness.

The very earliest museums were private collections held by European monarchs and aristocrats. These wealthy rulers would not only commission the great painters and sculptors of the day, but display objects that they had purchased on their travels – or artworks supplied by agents who scoured the world on their behalf.

Musée du Louvre itself began as a private royal collection that was thrown open to the public following the French Revolution. Other great institutes – like the British Museum in London – were created when antiquarians, bibliophiles, aristocrats and explorers pooled their private collections to create a museum that was specifically for the public.

To make an impact in today’s market, a famous name helps, of course; and the unprecedented intergovernmental agreement between Paris and Abu Dhabi includes the loan of the Musée du Louvre’s moniker for 30 years and six months, temporary exhibitions for 15 years, and loans of artworks for 10.

“With a unique global narrative and a vision to explore the history of art in a fresh context, Louvre Abu Dhabi is a place where visitors can come to understand their own and others’ cultures,” said museum director Manuel Rabaté. “Its ground-breaking architecture complements a presentation of exceptional treasures that represent a snapshot of humanity’s creativity, and paves the way for new discussions.”

As Rabaté indicates, Louvre Abu Dhabi isn’t simply about the treasures that lie within – the vast, domed building is a work of art in itself. Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel was inspired by Arabia’s low-lying settlements and medinas. He adventurously designed a space described as a museum city floating in the sea.

Not simply a stand-alone institution, Louvre Abu Dhabi will eventually be joined by Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry; Zayed National Museum, a Sir Norman Foster creation; the Zaha Hadid-designed Performing Arts centre, and the Maritime Museum, all forming a staggering cultural district on Saadiyat Island

Ultimately, Louvre Abu Dhabi will be judged on its exhibits, and it lays down a marker there, too. The permanent collection includes prized artefacts such as a 3,000-year-old gold bracelet with lion figurines from Iran, a gold brooch with garnets that was fashioned in fifth century AD Italy, the Rene Magritte painting The Subjugated Reader, a 1928 collage by Picasso titled Portrait Of A Lady and the most ancient known photographic representation of a veiled woman. It will also host parts of the permanent collection of Musée du Louvre, as well as items on loan from 13 French art institutions including Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronnière and a Spanish spout of a lion said to be from Monzon from Musée du Louvre, as well as Claude Monet’s La gare Saint-Lazare and Edouard Manet’s The Fife Player, both from the Musée d’Orsay.

As its collection grows, the museum will undoubtedly become a showcase for world culture in the UAE, a region that the museum describes as “standing at the crossroads of civilisations”.

Words: Adrian Mourby