Entertainment » Fine Arts

Louvre Abu Dhabi Prepares to Unveil Itself to the World

by Jon Gambrell
Tuesday Nov 7, 2017
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Louvre Abu Dhabi  (Source:AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Stepping into the Louvre Abu Dhabi, one of the first artworks a visitor sees is a two-headed Neolithic statue from Jordan, one of the oldest known in human history.

That duality - looking back and toward the future, encompassing both East and West - is a theme that extends throughout the new museum, which is opening to the public on Saturday after a decade of delays and questions over laborers' rights.

The conservative mores of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates that's more buttoned-up than freewheeling Dubai, can be seen in the relative absence of pieces depicting nudity. Still, artwork at the new Louvre offers a brief history of the world and its major religions, not shying away from Judaism in a country that officially does not recognize Israel.

"Here at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, we've accomplished history," Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said at a ceremony for journalists on Monday. "This museum is a lot more than just a museum."

The modernist museum, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, sits under a honeycombed dome of eight layers of Arab-style geometric shapes.

It draws the lapping waters of the Persian Gulf into its outer corridors, allowing individual beams of light that pass through the roof to strike the surface and cast dancing reflections across the white walls. At night, light inside pours out like tiny little stars from a salt shaker against the city's skyline.

"I imagine this metaphor of the sky, cosmic, cosmographic, with a random system like the stars itself," Nouvel told The Associated Press. "I imagine that with not a lot of lighting, just a little bit to create a kind of rain of light."

That rain has been a long time coming in this desert country, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. Authorities first announced the Louvre Abu Dhabi project in 2007 as Dubai feverishly built the world tallest building and other wonders.

Today, much of Saadiyat Island, envisioned as a cultural district anchored by the museum, is still empty. A planned Middle East outpost of the Guggenheim remains unbuilt , with just a poured foundation on the salt flood plain.

Part of the reason is the drop in global energy prices from over $100 a barrel in 2014 to around $30 in early 2016. Officials in Abu Dhabi have not disclosed how much it cost to build the museum.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Autumn 2017

This story is part of our special report titled "Autumn 2017." Want to read more? Here's the full list.


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