East meets West as Louvre Abu Dhabi opens in the Gulf

Surrounded by water
from three sides, the museum houses 600 artworks it has acquired, alongside 300
works on loan from 13 leading French institutions, in its 23 permanent
galleries. The artists range from Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh to Pablo
Picasso and Cy Twombly.

French President
Emmanuel Macron attended as the guest of honour at the opening, along with other
heads of state.

“It is a lot more than
just a museum. It is a center of peace, acceptance, tolerance and education,”
Mohamed al-Mubarak, chairman of the department of culture and tourism in Abu
Dhabi, told Reuters.

Permanent
installations include a sculpture by Auguste Rodin, an enormous bronze tree
with mirrored branches called “leaves of light” by Italian artist Giuseppe
Penone and three engravings on stone walls bearing historic texts from the
region by Jenny Holzer, an American neo-conceptual artist.

French President Emmanuel Macron is welcomed by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Prime Minister and Vice-President of UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron is welcomed by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Prime Minister and Vice-President of UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Reuters

And there are
priceless pieces. They include a statue of the Sphinx dating back to the 6th century
BC, 13 fragments of a frieze that reveals Surah al Hashr from the Holy Quran
and a marble bust of Alexander the Great.

Among the paintings is
one by Leonardo DaVinci, done between 1495 and 1499 and called La Belle
Ferronniere, or Portrait of an Unknown Woman, which was recently restored and
is on loan from the original Musee du Louvre in Paris.

The Abu Dhabi museum
was set up under a 2007 inter-governmental agreement between Paris and Abu
Dhabi. Originally slated to open in 2012, it was delayed by the global
financial crisis and then by low oil prices, which led the United Arab Emirates
to rein in spending.

Louvre Abu Dhabi has
partnered with museums and cultural institutions in the Arab world, who will
lend 28 significant works. Among them are an 8,000-year-old, two-headed figure
called the Ain Ghazal statue from Jordan, some 400 silver dirham coins from
Oman and a pre-historic stone tool from Saudi Arabia.

People view exhibits at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov 6, 2017. Reuters

People view exhibits at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Nov 6, 2017. Reuters

Having invested over
$1 billion in the museum, Abu Dhabi is hoping culture will attract tourists.
Two more museums, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum, are planned
around the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the Saadiyat Cultural District that already
hosts art fairs, exhibitions and performances.

“Culture is the
element that will distinguish us from others,” said Saif Saeed Ghobash,
director-general of the emirate’s Department of Culture & Tourism. “We will
attract a different kind of traveller.”

The entrance ticket to
the museum is 60 dirhams ($16.30) with all 5,000 tickets sold out for the opening
day.