Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the new Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first outpost of the Musée du Louvre outside of France. The building is located on the waterfront of Abu Dhabi’s artificially created Saadiyat Island and is founded on a major symbol of Arab architecture: a dome that appears to float above the museum. ‘But, with its evident shift from tradition, the dome is a modern proposal,’ said Nouvel.
Almost 8 000 metal stars overlap to form the geometric pattern that characterises the dome, which stretches 190m over the huge art museum. The sunlight that filters through the roof creates a ‘rain of light’, illuminating the white interior and creating flickering shadows. ‘The dome gleams in the Abu Dhabi sunshine. At night, this protected landscape is an oasis of light under a starry dome,’ comments the architect. In conceiving this marvellous ode to light, Nouvel found inspiration in the palm trees of Abu Dhabi, whose leaves catch the harsh sunlight and soften it, creating a dappled effect on the ground below.
Specially commissioned installations are showcased inside the museum’s semi-outdoor white cubic blocks. In the permanent collection there are 23 galleries, and there is also a temporary exhibition space, and a museum for children, as well as a 270-seat auditorium, shop, cafe and restaurant.
The permanent collection houses 600 artworks, including pieces by Piet Mondrian, Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, Cy Twombly and Ai Weiwei, while a further 300 works have been loaned from French cultural institutions. As a whole, these artworks come together to tell a story of the origin of the Louvre, from the 17th century to the present day. In the children’s museum, an opening exhibition titled Travelling Shapes and Colours explores examples of floral and geometric designs found in 18th-century decorative French vases, Turkish ceramics and a 19th-century painting by German artist Paul Klee.
‘[Louvre Abu Dhabi] has reinvented the 18th-century premise of the universal museum for a demanding contemporary audience,’ the museum’s director Manuel Rabaté told Dezeen. ‘In a complex multi-narrative world, these ideas are more important than ever.’ Ultimately, the Louvre Abu Dhabi aims to be a cultural beacon, bringing people together with a fresh emphasis on the shared stories of humanity.
Visit louvreabudhabi.ae for more information.