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Rediff.com  » Getahead » Can a museum change how the world views an Arabic nation?

Can a museum change how the world views an Arabic nation?

Last updated on: November 13, 2017 11:11 IST

The new Louvre Abu Dhabi has put no restrictions on art, proudly displaying everything from nude figures to Christian and Hindu art.

Scroll down for a tour of the museum the world can't stop talking about!

Louvre Abu Dhabi

After 10 years of work, the much-awaited Louvre Abu Dhabi opens to the world today.
The architectural masterpiece designed by Jean Nouvel is located on the waterfront -- it is surrounded by water from three sides -- in Abu Dhabi's cultural district on Saadiyat Island.
Photograph: Satish Kumar/Reuters.
 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

This museum was born from a unique agreement between the United Arab Emirates and France -- signed in 2007 -- to develop the first universal museum in the Arab world.
Presented across 6,400 square metres of galleries, the museum houses 600 artworks it has acquired, alongside 300 works on loan from 13 leading French institutions.
Photograph: Satish Kumar/Reuters.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Visitors can walk along promenades overlooking the sea underneath a dome comprised of 7,850 unique metal stars set in a complex geometric pattern.
When sunlight filters through, it creates a moving 'Rain of Light', reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the UAE's oases.
In the background, soaring towards the dome is Giuseppe Penone's sculpture Leaves of Light -- a symbol of life, as shared by all cultures. 
Photograph: Satish Kumar/Reuters.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi's collection spans the history of humanity, and according to the museum authorities, 'will explore a universal narrative through artworks and artefacts from all over the world.'
The inaugural installation takes visitors on a chronological journey from prehistory to the present day, encompassing 12 chapters including the birth of the first villages; universal religions; cosmography; the magnificence of the royal court; and the modern world.
A Young Emir Studying by Osman Hamdy Bey from Turkey, circa 1878, finds place in the 10th chapter with contemporaries like Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.
Photograph: @louvreabudhabi/Instagram.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Highlights include paintings by Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Eduard Manet, Gustave Caillebotte and Claude Monet.
Photograph: @louvreabudhabi/Instagram.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

'We had a carte blanche for the acquisitions in all domains,' Jean-Francois Charnier, scientific director of Agence France-Museums, told the media. 'You have nude statues in the museum, contemporary paintings. You also have religious images from all religions.'
The museum says, 'Here, conservation technician Fatima Dhaif tests the fragility of the paint on the Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom, an Indian manuscript made of palm leaves dating back to 1191.'
Photograph: @louvreabudhabi/Instagram.

 

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is home to priceless and ancient artefacts like a Sphinx statue circa 6th century B.C, fragments of a frieze that reveals Surah al Hashr from the Holy Quran, a marble bust of Alexander the Great and this statue of Maitreya from Nepal.
Photograph: @louvreabudhabi/Instagram.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

It is estimated that it cost more than $1 billion to build this museum, a major chunk of which would have gone towards acquiring the art and arefacts like this 'Uli statue, which was used during funerary rituals for important chiefs of the Madak tribe in New Ireland.'
Photograph: @louvreabudhabi/Instagram.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Scientific director Charnier said, 'Encounters with artefacts of different cultures give rise to emotions and questions, making this universal museum the ideal place to embark on a global history of humanity.'
Pictured above: The Dictes and Sayings of the philosophers is a rare manuscript. It is the first French translation of Kitâb mukhtâr al-ḥikam wa-maḥâsin al-kalim by the Syrian scholar Al-Mubashshir ibn Fâtik.
Photograph: Jonathan Gibbons via @louvreabudhabi/Instagram.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

The Louvre Abu Dhabi's contemporary art collection has nine canvases by Cy Twombly and a monumental sculpture by renowned international artist Ai Weiwei.
It also includes permanent site-specific installations like (pictured above) Jenny Holzer's engraved marble relief of a cuneiform tablet, one of three stone walls commissioned by the museum
.
Photograph: @louvreabudhabi/Instagram.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron browse through the collection at the museum's inauguration on November 8.  
French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen told the media, 'At a time when some forces are attacking history by destroying works, taking our heritage hostage, this is an essential act. It is civilization responding to barbarity.'
Photograph: Ludovic Marin/Reuters.

 

Louvre Abu Dhabi

But the Louvre Abu Dhabi is not just about the art.
The building it is housed in is also being hailed as a masterpiece.
Nouvel has seamlessly extended the building into the sea with his 'concrete beach' -- steps leading into the water.
The Economists's 1843 magazine calls it 'a masterpiece of light and water' that is 'a civic space as much as a cultural one.
Nouvel says, 'Louvre Abu Dhabi embodies an exceptional programme in the literal sense of the word. Its vocation is now to express what is universal throughout the ages.'

Photograph: Satish Kumar/Reuters.
Rediff Get Ahead Bureau