First Published: 2017-09-06

Louvre Abu Dhabi to open on November 11
French culture minister says Abu Dhabi will open its doors to public on November 11, ten years after project was launched.
Middle East Online

Abu Dhabi's Louvre museum designed by French architect Jean Nouvel

ABU DHABI - The Louvre Abu Dhabi will finally open its doors to the public in November, bringing to the Gulf Mesopotamian artifacts and post-impressionist masterpieces in the first Louvre-branded museum outside of Paris.

Housing 600 works of art, including 300 loaned by 13 French museums for the inaugural year, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is described as the "first universal museum" in the Arab world.

"At a time when culture is under attack... this is our joint response," French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen said at a news conference Wednesday in Abu Dhabi to announce the November 11 opening date.

The museum has been a decade in the making and is opening five years behind schedule.

Among the works on loan to Abu Dhabi are Leonardo da Vinci's La Belle Ferronniere from the Louvre -- which houses the world's largest collection of art -- and Vincent van Gogh's self-portrait from the Musee d'Orsay.

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel of France, the "museum city" is reminiscent of an Arab medina, enveloped by a part arabesque, part futuristic silvery dome that lets in the light in patterns mimicking leaves of the palm trees of the Gulf.

While the Louvre Abu Dhabi will not lack its Rodins and Gaugins, for some, the real heart of the museum is in its narration of ancient civilisations through artifacts acquired by the United Arab Emirates.

- 'Complex, ambitious' -

The planned opening comes a decade after France and the UAE agreed a 30-year partnership worth $1.1 billion under which many top French museums will loan art to Abu Dhabi.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to attend the inauguration of the museum, which had originally been scheduled to open in 2012.

The "complex, ambitious project", in the words of museum director Manuel Rabate, has faced delays in funding and construction.

The decision to grant Abu Dhabi the rights to the Louvre name sparked heated debate in France with critics accusing the Louvre of "selling its soul" and questioning the emirate's record on labour rights.

"Yes, it's exceptional. Yes, this is the first time a project like this launches in the Middle East. But that's what's unique to this project," Rabate told AFP in response to the critiques.

He sought to allay concerns about the transportation of the art and the conditions in which it will be stored, in a country where temperatures soar well above 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) in the summer.

"Their protection is vital to us and we have made sure we have the systems in place to protect them against the environmental conditions," Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said.

"The museum's galleries are operated by sophisticated climate controls for humidity, temperature and light and during installation, the works are in environmentally protected crates and cases to make sure they are not affected by outside conditions."

Guarded by Emirati forces, in coordination with French experts, including civil defence and terrorism security forces, the art is protected by "state of the art security systems and procedures, in line with international standards," said Mubarak.

- 'Message of tolerance' -

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is part of "a major cultural strategy" to promote the city as a patron of the arts in a region increasingly focused on soft power.

About five percent of the overall museum will be dedicated to contemporary and modern art. The rest focuses on telling the story of world histories and religions.

In the gallery of world religions, a sixth century Koran, a gothic Bible and a Yemeni Torah face each other, open to verses that give similar accounts.

"To send that message of tolerance is really important for our time," said Mubarak.

A branch of the Guggenheim, still under development, and the Zayed Museum, the national museum named after the country's founder, are located on the same island.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi's opening comes as the UAE, which in April announced the establishment of a Soft Power Council, is locked in a diplomatic battle with neighbouring Qatar, accused by its Gulf neighbours of supporting Islamist extremism.

The UAE will also host the global trade fair Expo 2020.

"We're definitely not this closed-off society that's putting a massive wall up," said Mubarak.

"We (the UAE and France) have a goal that is exactly identical: we both want to tell the world how our history is connected. Through culture, the world can become a better place," he added.

 

US says Iran supplied ballistic missile to Yemen rebels

UN 'appalled' at mass execution of jihadists in Iraq

Palestinians killed in continuing protests over Jerusalem occupation

Over half Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in 'extreme poverty'

Palestinian activist killed in Gaza protests

Foreign fighters a worry as IS struggles to survive

Bourita: Extraordinary meeting between ECOWAS, Morocco to be held beginning of 2018

Saudi-led air strikes, clashes as Yemen forces battle rebels

Sahel force funding shows terrorism fight is Saudi 'priority'

Iraq's Sistani says Hashed should be under government control

Middle-class Egypt adapts as costs soar

Somalia's budget meets IMF terms

Israel PM questioned in graft probe

Lebanon approves bid for oil, gas exploration

US to present 'irrefutable evidence' of Iran violations

Istanbul 'to remove Gulen links' from street names

Iraq hangs 38 jihadists

Pence to visit Middle East despite controversy

Hamas chief calls for continued Jerusalem protests

EU to repatriate 15,000 migrants from Libya in two months

Syria Kurds fear US ally will desert them after IS defeat

Israeli drugmaker Teva to cut 14,000 jobs over two years

Turkey rescues 51 migrants stranded on rocks

Saudi, UAE hold talks with Yemen Islamists

18 killed after bomber strikes Mogadishu police academy

Israeli air strikes target Hamas military facilities

US-led air strikes kill 23 civilians in Syria

Israel union calls nationwide strike over pharmaceutical giant job cuts

UN envoy urges Putin to press Assad for elections

Yemen's Huthi rebels release pro-Saleh media staff

Israel intelligence minister invites Saudi prince to visit

Saudi-led strikes kill 30 in rebel-run Yemen prison

Saudi king says Palestinians have 'right' to Jerusalem

Erdogan urges world to recognise Jerusalem as Palestinian capital

Saudi King says determined to confront corruption

South Sudan needs $1.7 billion humanitarian aid in 2018

UAE oil giant floats 10 percent of retail arm to strong interest

US skeptical about Putin's declaration of military victory in Syria

Growing concern about rise of far-right in Austria

Saudi, UAE seeks to help West Africa fight terrorism

Somali journalist dies after Mogadishu bombing

Israeli sentenced to four years for arson attack on church

Erdogan risks sabotaging fragile relations with Israel

6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Iran

Two Gazans killed by Israeli ‘strike’, Israel denies claim