I wanted to talk about something that is creating a huge stir in the art world at this very moment. I have no doubt in my mind that we all know of the Louvre and I’m sure many of you have visited it when in Paris. As the world’s largest art museum housing many of the most well known art works and simultaneously being a historic monument in itself, a central landmark to the city and world renowned example of archetypal architecture it holds great gravitas over the art world. So it’s no surprise that others want to recreate this French masterpiece – hence the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
After 10 years of controversy and delays the extensive project which was created in collaboration with France and built by Paris’s star architect Jean Nouvel has opened. Just like its Parisian predecessor the Abu Dhabi Louvre is intended to be a beacon of culture and art as it is considered to be the first ‘universal museum’ in the Arab world.
The emotional opening by France’s Emmanuel Macron and Abu Dhabi’s prince Mohammed Bin Zayad Al Nahyan showed how art (ranging from ancient sculptures to Van Gogh oil paintings) could be called upon by pressured leaders to attempt to smooth over difficult diplomacy. The new gallery has been described as ‘the first museum to be born out of a diplomatic agreement.’ Ten years ago France and the UAE agreed to a 30 year partnership worth over $1.27bn – this is including a $520m agreement purely for Abu Dhabi to use the Louvre name. In the art world, and particularly among the french, this deal has sparked controversy (including senior figures in the art museum world) as it’s said France has risked ‘selling its soul.’ The new museums opening has been clouded in protest from many, with a petition being signed by hundreds of thousands who believe that there can only be one Louvre and that to try and replicate France’s heart and soul is to sell out on itself.
I personally am undecided as to which side of the fence I sit but I can absolutely appreciate the breathtaking site of the building within and admire the artworks it houses. Most of the pieces in the Abu Dhabi Louvre at the moment are loans from Paris to attract visitors and to try to show people that Abu Dhabi means business as it now is displaying some of the West’s most famous and revered artwork including but not limited to; a Piet Mondrian ‘Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black’ that we all will recognise from the famous YSL dress, as well as paintings by french impressionists such as Gustave Caillebotte, Edward Manet and many Paul Gaugin works one of which sold at Sotheby’s New York for $10 million. The range of artwork housed in this new museum is exquisite with Gold statues dating back to 8th Century BCE and Giovanni Bellini paintings of the Madonna and Child from 1480-1485 being included in the collection side by side.
However, not to be outshone the building has become a destination in itself. A collection of 55 buildings sits under one gleaming white domed roof overlooking the water. It is claimed by the architect that the inspiration for the domed roof punctured with holes that allows for rays of light to shine through into the gallery, mesmerisingly replicates the dappled light that shines through many homes in the middle east with roofs made from palm tree leaves and branches. This reminds visitors that despite being surrounded by 600 art pieces that have been sourced from all over the world, it is all within the sunny atmosphere of modern Abu Dhabi and not 8th century China or 19th century Paris.
Wether or not you are a conformist who believes in the sanctity of the Parisian Louvre, no one can deny that Abu Dhabi’s version hasn’t worked hard to be at the incredibly high standard that it is at today.
I’d love to know what you all think, so if you’ve gotten this far then do comment below and let me know!