A £1 billion art museum in the desert opens this weekend after 10 years of planning, negotiating and some nosebleed spends in auction houses across the globe.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a massive statement building that appears to float above the water that surrounds it and is designed by Jean Nouvel, the architect behind the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Moma extension in New York. Characteristically chameleonic, Nouvel has taken inspiration from local Arabic architecture for the design.
A 180-metre wide dome made of eight layered and overlapping sheets of steely honeycomb allows shafts of sunshine – coined by Nouvel as “the rain of light” – to battle their way to the interior. The bright white structures beneath make up a sort of cultural village comprising 23 permanent galleries, a Children’s Museum, 200-seat auditorium, restaurant and cafe.
The project has required epic diplomatic relations between France and The Emirates. As visitors wander round it this weekend they’ll find 300 artworks loaned from 13 key institutions across Paris. These include a Monet from the Musée d’Orsay, a Matisse from Centre Pompidou and a Da Vinci from the Louvre. Other artworks in the permanent collection include heavy-hitters like a 1928 collage by Picasso, Gaugin’s Children Wrestling and Magritte’s The Subjugated Reader.
The overarching aim of the museum’s ambitious curation is to highlight cultural connections throughout history. There will be an emphasis on historical art, mixing works from across the globe, so a 3,000-year-old Middle-Eastern gold bracelet with lion’s head or a Baga D’mba mask from Guinea will sit amongst Monets and Whistlers.
This is all part of Abu Dhabi’s plan to present themselves to the world as a tolerant global city and a cultural hub. There are future plans for Guggenheim Abu Dhabi designed by Frank Gehry and a National Museum designed by Norman Foster. Watch out Paris, New York and London, Abu Dhabi is coming for you.