Five years on: the day Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors

As the Arab world's first universal museum celebrates its fifth anniversary, we look back to when it all started

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Friday marks five years since Louvre Abu Dhabi welcomed the first members of the public.

It is also 15 years since the project was first approved by the French Parliament, and Paris's Louvre Museum signed a Dh1.92 billion agreement to allow Abu Dhabi’s museum to use its name for three decades.

The opening ceremony for the Arab world’s first universal museum was marked with traditional Emirati dances beneath Jean Nouvel’s remarkable dome, a flypast by an Etihad A380 and a striking light show.

Speaking at the time, Manuel Rabate, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s director, said it was a special day. “You see people from all over the world," he added. "Emiratis, expatriates and tourists all together — mesmerised by the dome, the artworks, by the Children’s Museum.

“I see people carrying bags from the boutiques, bringing back books, presents. It’s exciting. It’s a good picture of what days in Louvre Abu Dhabi could look like.”

Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said the museum will be a "meeting point for lovers of art, culture and beauty all around the world".

“With the opening of this museum, Abu Dhabi has become the capital of art, architecture and mankind’s heritage," he added.

From its inception, Louvre Abu Dhabi has aimed to explore common humanity and the things that bind rather than divide the world’s various cultures and civilisations.

This spirit flowed through the museum’s first special exhibition From One Louvre to Another: Opening a Museum for Everyone, which featured 150 masterpieces from the Palace of Versailles and Louvre Museum, including statues, paintings and ceramics from around the world.

The approach was also encapsulated by the loan of Leonardo da Vinci’s La Belle Ferronniere by Louvre Museum, which stayed in Abu Dhabi until 2019. Fittingly, the French museum has loaned Louvre Abu Dhabi another Leonardo masterpiece to celebrate its fifth anniversary — Saint John the Baptist, which arrived last week.

When it arrived, Rabate told The National: “The arrival of the globally revered masterpiece, Saint John the Baptist, as Louvre Abu Dhabi celebrates its five-year anniversary, is symbolic of our enduring collaboration with our partners in France and reinforces Abu Dhabi’s position as a global cultural centre.”

Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed to awe visitors for centuries; if its exhibitions and collections are anything to go by, the best, it seems, is yet to come.

Scroll through images of Louvre Abu Dhabi's impressionism exhibition below

Updated: November 22, 2022, 4:51 AM
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