Abu Dhabi: Louvre Abu Dhabi celebrates its second-year anniversary this month on the heels of several major achievements for the institution and the launch of new programmes, as well as a significant number of new artworks in the galleries.
Since opening in 2017, Louvre Abu Dhabi has welcomed over two million visitors from around the world who have come to enjoy the museum’s rich cross-cultural collection, eight ground-breaking international exhibitions and a range of cultural programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds.
The institution has further solidified its commitment to education, inaugurating the Children’s Museum in July 2019 – the first museum of its kind in the Arab world – and welcoming over 60,000 student visits while offering training and job opportunities for Emiratis and the local community.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi said, “Two years ago, we launched this museum as a gift from Abu Dhabi to the world. Our vision was for a truly universal museum, a place that shines a light on our shared humanity through an incredible collection of artworks and artefacts from every corner of the globe. Today, I could not be prouder of how that vision has been brought to life. Louvre Abu Dhabi celebrates the connections between cultures and tells a story of our collective history, present and future – a story that is now even more important in a world that tends to focus more on our differences than our similarities.”
Highlights in the galleries include: a dagger with lion-shaped handle (1100–600 BCE) excavated at Saruq al-Hadid in Dubai and on loan from Dubai Municipality; the monumental Egyptian marble Portrait of Cleopatra? (305–30 BCE, Ptolemaic Dynasty), a recent Louvre Abu Dhabi acquisition; a silver vase decorated with biblical figures (575–625) from Emesa (modern Homs, Syria), on loan from Musée du Louvre; a bronze aquamanile in the form of a peacock (972) from Spain, also on loan from Musée du Louvre; Rembrandt’s Head of a Young Man, with Clasped Hands: Study of the Figure of Christ, from ca. 1648-56; the portrait of Francis the First, King of France (1539 CE) by Tiziano Vecellio (Titian), on loan from Musée du Louvre; an Imperial armour from18th-century China, on loan from Musée des Arts Décoratifs; Francesco Primaticcio’s Laocoon and his Sons (Laocoon et ses fils) on loan from Château de Fontainebleau and Chinese imperial jades from the Qing dynasty (imperial seal decorated with two dragons and Ruyi sceptre), on loan from Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet.
New works have been installed in the museum’s modern and contemporary galleries, including Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun’s Portrait of Countess Skavronskaia (1761-1829), Lady of Honor of Catherine II, Empress of Russia on loan from Musée du Louvre, The Seine and the Louvre (La Seine et le Louvre) by Camille Pissarro (1903) on loan from Musée d’Orsay, Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker (Le Penseur) (1881-1882) on loan from Musée Rodin, Van Gogh in a landscape (Van Gogh dans un paysage) by Francis Bacon (1957) and Syrian painter Marwan Kassab-Bhaci’s Mann mit grüner Weste (Man in a Green Waistcoat) (1967), both on loan from Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne, as well as Emirati artist Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim’s works Window 1 (Fenêtre 1) and Untitled 1, both from 2016 and both on loan from Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne.
For the final gallery, Susanna Fritscher’s Für die Luft (For the air) is a maze constructed from thousands of silicon threads that visitors walk through. Stretched between the floor and the ceiling like the strings of a giant musical instrument, the artwork acts as a mist-like filter between visitors and the architecture that surrounds them, transforming their perception of the space.
Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, added, “In just two years, Louvre Abu Dhabi has established its reputation as a space for cultural exchange, community engagement and progressive dialogue. We have realised some significant milestones during this time, from major acquisitions of artworks for the museum’s collection, to outstanding special exhibitions that have garnered global attention. Education is also at the core of our mission and values. We have placed a huge emphasis on building a museum that is accessible to visitors of all ages and are cultivating a new generation of cultural leaders through training programmes and career opportunities. We are so thankful to all who have made this vision possible and look forward to the year ahead.”
During the anniversary month, Louvre Abu Dhabi will offer diverse experiences for visitors, from landmark exhibitions to interactive public programmes across the galleries.
On the wider programme, Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director, Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: “Louvre Abu Dhabi’s cultural seasons offer an opportunity to further explore key historical and aesthetic episodes in history from our unique Universal perspective, often re-examining the ways in which mutual discovery and appreciation have always informed human history. In Changing Societies, our main objective is to shed light on how culture and creativity have acted as a manifestation of shifts and changes in society and civilisations.”
Currently on view, 10,000 Years of Luxury –the first comprehensive exhibition on the history of luxury in the world and the largest presentation at Louvre Abu Dhabi to date—has received high acclaim from the public and media. Open through 18 February 2020, this exploration on the multifaceted nature of luxury presents 350 objects including fashion, jewellery, visual art, furniture and design. The exhibition was organised by Louvre Abu Dhabi, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, and Agence France-Muséums. It is curated by Olivier Gabet, Director of Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
Coinciding with the exhibition, the museum presented this weekend a public programme of pop-up performances called Experience the Unexpected inspired by the concept ‘money can’t buy’. Featuring 30 international artists, singers and dancers from 8 countries, these performances were set against the backdrop of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection and exhibitions, taking viewers on new paths of discovery spanning time and civilisations, and filling the galleries with music and dance. The programme was curated by Ruth Mackenzie CBE, artistic director of Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet and former director of the Holland Festival in Amsterdam and cultural programme for the London 2012 Olympics.
A concurrent exhibition—Rendezvous in Paris: Picasso, Chagall, Modigliani & Co. (1900–1939)—was organised by Louvre Abu Dhabi, Centre Pompidou, and Agence France-Museums, and will be on view through 7 December. It was curated by Christian Briend, Head Curator, Modern Art Collection, Centre Pompidou.
Finally, in a special surprise to celebrate the anniversary, Al Fursan—the UAE’s airforce aerobatic display team—flew over the museum’s iconic dome on Saturday, 9 November. Air show attendees received free admission to the museum for the rest of the day.