Louvre Abu Dhabi opens a new era for UAE
Macron calls it a decisive turning point as museum marks a dream come true for UAE
The decade-long wait for the Arab world's own Louvre was well worth it. With the night sky reflected in the waters of the Arabian Gulf surrounding the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the museum witnessed its official opening on Wednesday evening.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces; French President Emmanuel Macron; and Morocco's King Mohammed VI were among those present at the grand opening.
In a tweet ahead of the opening, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed hailed the museum as a global cultural monument. "The Louvre Abu Dhabi brings together unique art icons that reflect humanity's collective genius," he tweeted.
Macron called the museum a "decisive turning point" in ties with the UAE in an interview with Arabic daily Al Ittihad. He also hailed the country, saying: "The UAE is an indispensable cornerstone for the Middle East stability, and our strategic economic partner."
Though the museum is now officially open, the public opening is only on November 11. For four days after, the museum will come alive with a spectacular light show, performances by international artists and "a few surprises".
The museum design by France's Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel conjures up the image of an Arab city as seen through the eyes of a contemporary cinematographer.
The architect said when it came to the design, he did not have to look too far for inspiration, because it lay right here, in the heart of the UAE.
"I believed this museum has to have roots and should translate and define the culture of this country, so I used symbols of the Arabic culture."
Recalling his first helicopter tour of the sandy island, Nouvel said: "I'm a contextual architect, and I can't imagine a programme if it doesn't belong to the culture."
A silver-toned dome with perforated Arabesque patterns appears to float over the white galleries, creating what Nouvel describes as a "rain of light". To reach the ground, each ray of light must cross eight layers of perforations, creating a constantly shifting pattern that mimics the shadows cast by palm trees or the roof of a traditional Arab market.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first of three museums to open on Saadiyat Island, where the UAE plans to launch the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, and Norman Foster's Zayed National Museum.
The main focus of the museum is on world history and religions. Among the exhibits are an early copy of the Holy Quran, a Gothic Bible and a Yemenite Torah, facing each other and open at verses carrying the same message.
Jean-Luc Martinez, president of the Louvre in Paris, said the new museum was designed "to open up to others, to understand diversity" in "a multipolar world".
It currently has some 300 pieces on loan, including an 1887 self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci's "La Belle Ferronniere".
The museum is displaying more than 235 works of art from the Emirati collection, including Edouard Manet's "The Gypsy" and works by Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian and Turkey's Osman Hamdi Bey.
The artworks are guarded by Emirati forces in coordination with French experts.
The museum expects to welcome around 5,000 visitors over the first few days after the public opening on November 11, according to Mohammed Al Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority.
"Because this is an international museum, we're expecting visitors from around the world," Mubarak said during a media tour ahead of Wednesday's inauguration ceremony. "So a museum visitor from China will find something that speaks to her, to her history. A visitor from India will find the same."
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