I crane my neck as I try to take in the multi-layered lattice that forms the encompassing dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The art and ambience of the Louvre keeps the blistering Emirati heat at bay. The dome sits on a number of white buildings on the seashore. Being open from all sides, the temperatures inside remain low, with a breeze helping the cause.
Almost 10 years in the making and at an expense of reportedly a billion dollars, the Louvre Abu Dhabi opened to the public in November 2017, with 600 works of art in its collection. Twenty-three galleries are filled with permanent as well as temporary exhibitions such as Globes: Visions of the World.
According to Manuel Rabate, the young director, “Louvre Abu Dhabi is a new kind of museum, a museum with a universal narrative re-imagined for the 21st Century.”
The museum tries to weave this narrative through some stunning pieces of its own and on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou and the Bibliothèque Nationale. Don’t miss the Bactrian Princess (Central Asia, 3 BC), the Portrait of Fayoum (Egypt, 225-250 AD), a Leaf from the Blue Quran, Mother-of-Pearl ewer, Dancing Shiva, Eagle-shaped fibula from Domagnano, Buddha head, standing Bodhisattva, Gilles Guérin’s marble sculpture Horses of the Sun, Francesco Primaticcio’s Apollo Belvedere, and an 8,000-year-old two-headed sculpture from Jordan.
- The Louvre is located in Saadiyat Island. It is an hour and 20 minutes from Dubai.
- The museum is open between 10 am and 8 pm every day, except Thursday and Friday, when it closes at 10 pm. It is shut on Monday.
- Entrance is 60 AED (₹1,090.04 approximately). Tickets can be purchased online.
- Café at The Louvre is led by Chef Roudy Peterson. Overlooking the Arabian Gulf, it offers a marvellous view. A limited menu but delicious food served on gorgeous plates.
Among the masters, there is Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronière on loan from Louvre, Paris. There is also a self-portrait by the artist and, we learn, very soon Salvator Mundi will also be up on the walls of the museum. The Louvre Abu Dhabi bought the painting at $450.3 million in a New York auction in 2017.
Other masterpieces include Paul Gauguin’s Children Wrestling, Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child, Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black, The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866) and The Saint-Lazare Station by Claude Monet (1877).
- Since its opening, the museum has had some celebrity visitors, including their Royal Highnesses King Abdullah II, and Queen Rania; 7th Duke of Westminster Hugh Richard Louis Grosvenor; Juan Carlos I, Former King of Spain; football player Pepe; Hollywood star Adrien Brody; and Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez.
- The museum sees between 2,000-5000 visitors on most days, and on certain days the number has gone up to 10,000.
Alberto Giacometti’s Standing Woman II and the works of Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Jenny Holzer as well as a crystal towers sculpture by the well-known Chinese artist Ai Weiwei await art lovers. According to Rabate, Louvre Abu Dhabi celebrates the diversity of Dubai and its visitors include both local and foreign tourists.
Globes: Visions of the World
Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) has curated a special show called Globes: Visions of the World. This is a part of the special show the museum will host annually.
Why and how did the globes originate? Who were the minds behind these spheres, circles and ellipses? The exhibits include globes and armillary spheres, manuscripts, publications, rare coins, maps and prints from the collection of BnF. These trace the humans’ understanding of their world and the universe.
- A 10th Century Nataraja statue from the Chola empire; a Prajnaparamita Sutra, a rare and important Buddhist illuminated manuscript from the 12th Century Eastern Indian monasteries; and the Bindu, a painting by Syed Haider Raza.
- The museum had also organised a series of performances by Kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivalingappa.
The earliest known celestial sphere — (an imaginary sphere of arbitrarily large radius, concentric with Earth), found in eastern Turkey, dating back to 2nd BC is hard to miss. Then there are the 15th-Century globes where America is not there, as it had not yet been discovered! It is only in the exquisite Green Globe (1506) that the American continent is represented for the first time. One can also admire Greco-Roman astronomer, Claudius Ptolemy’s scientific treatises.
The Golden globe traced Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage around the world, the Welser globe — hand-engraved on copper — was made for the famous Welser family of German financiers. They financed expeditions to the Indies and made an attempt to colonise Venezuela. There is a 19th Century copy of the Muhammad ibn Mahmud ibn Ali al-Tabari celestial globe — a brass globe, engraved and inlaid with silver from Tabaristan, (a province in Northern Iran) made in 1285.
The exhibition is on at The Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island, till June 2.