When Louvre Abu Dhabi and its artworks played a starring role on screen

From a masterpiece in a Netflix whodunnit to an American treasure in Mr Bean, here are the museum's highlights in pop culture

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Since Louvre Abu Dhabi's opening in 2017, its permanent collections, temporary exhibitions and Jean Nouvel-designed dome structure itself have drawn millions of visitors from across the world — including, unsurprisingly, several filmmakers.

Most recently, the painting In a Cafe by Edgar Degas — a replica, understandably — was used in the Netflix hit Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. The real piece is currently on display at the museum, though only until Sunday.

From impressionist paintings to the museum's roof itself, here are the highlights from Louvre Abu Dhabi in film and TV.

In a Cafe by Edgar Degas

Critically and commercially acclaimed film Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is filled with intrigue, murder, a star-studded cast and plenty of art.

Almost every wall of tech billionaire Miles Bron’s (Edward Norton) private island mansion in Greece seems to be covered in one masterpiece or another.

As detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) investigates motives, alibies and friendships, he stumbles across replicas of works by Pablo Picasso, Gustav Klimt, David Hockney, Jean Michel Basquiat, Piet Mondrian and even Leonardo da Vinci.

One of the works that features in a pivotal scene can be seen at Louvre Abu Dhabi's current exhibition Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity, which ends on Sunday.

Influential French impressionist Edgar Degas’s pivotal work In a Cafe depicts a man and woman, sitting side by side in an enclosed space, with vacant, sad expressions. The figures seem to be suffering, either from the effects of their drinks, inner emotional turmoil, silent isolation or all three. It is a powerful painting, made more so by Degas’s composition and styling choices influenced by the flatness of Japanese prints.

In Glass Onion, the painting is hung in a bathroom, where Blanc feverishly analyses the motives of other house guests with Andi Brand (Janelle Monae). As she listens, frantically drinking from a bottle, Brand increasingly begins to resemble the gloomy and vacant demeanour of the figure in Degas’s work.

Venus and Her Nymphs by Louis-Jean-Francois Lagrenee

The popular Netflix original Bridgerton has featured a number of famous artworks throughout its two seasons.

The regency-era period drama has had royals, nobles, hopeful debutantes and their mothers parade through regal buildings filled with acclaimed works, presented in a way that offers subtle commentary on themes of gender, class and society.

One such painting is Venus and Her Nymphs by Louis-Jean-Francois Lagrenee, which features in episode three of season one, entitled Art of the Swoon. Venus, a common theme in works of the 17th and 18th centuries, is painted bathing with her nymphs in an ornate, almost theatrical, style.

While visiting the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition at Somerset House, best friends Eloise Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington stare up at the painting and discuss it.

“Like all of these paintings, it was done by a man, who sees women as nothing but decorative objects,” says Bridgerton, who is growing increasingly impatient with her society's objectification of women.

Lagrenee’s painting is part of Louvre Abu Dhabi's permanent collection.

Portrait of the Painter's Mother by James Abbott McNeill Whistler

The 1997 comedy film Bean, starring Rowan Atkinson as the bumbling Mr Bean, is the last place one might expect to see an important piece of art history.

However, at the centre of one Mr Bean’s blunders is James Abbot McNeill Whistlers’s Portrait of the Painter's Mother — also known as Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 or Whistler's Mother. In the film, Bean accidentally sneezes on and then stains the painting with ink; he subsequently replaces it with a replica.

Considered a masterpiece of American painting, the Victorian-era work has been lauded for its radical use of simple colouring and the simplicity of its composition used to reflect the decent and humble nature of the sitter.

The painting was loaned to Louvre Abu Dhabi and went on display from 2017 to 2019.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David

Neoclassical French painter Jacques-Louis David’s 1803 work Napoleon Crossing the Alps is one of the world’s most recognisable portraits of the inimitable French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

Following the French Revolution at the turn of the 18th century, France was once again a great European power. After declaring himself first consul and eventually emperor, Napoleon became the most formidable figure on the continent.

David’s painting depicts Napoleon leading his troops to victory against Austria across the Alps during the Battle of Marengo.

A portrait of power, authority and ruthless ambition, the painting features in the Netflix original film 6 Underground, a vigilante action-thriller starring Ryan Reynolds. The film follows the efforts of six assassins, who fake their own deaths and embark on a mission to take down Rovach Alimov, the ruler of a fictional country called Turgistan.

In the scene, audiences first meet the film’s villainous dictator Alimov, he stands in front of David’s portrait in the Louvre Abu Dhabi itself, examining it closely. Napoleon’s portrait helps to position Alimov’s character and motives before he’s even spoken.

The painting was loaned to Louvre Abu Dhabi and was displayed between 2017 and 2021.

For the Louvre Abu Dhabi by Jenny Holzer

American neoconceptual artist Jenny Holzer’s permanent Louvre Abu Dhabi fixture, titled For the Louvre Abu Dhabi, has been part of the museum since 2017.

To produce the work, Holzer used advanced technologies to enlarge and then engrave three ancient texts on large stone panels embedded into the walls.

The three texts included one taken from a Mesopotamian tablet in cuneiform script, as well as two more in Arabic and Latin.

The work also features in 6 Underground as the backdrop to a heated exchange between dictator Alimov and an assassin he's hired to kill the team of six.

During the scene, the pair discuss how the six shadowy figures chasing Alimov seem to have severed their links with the world. Here, Holzer’s Wall appears to add a layer of symbolism; representing the connections that bind people, cultures and civilisations across time periods and geographies.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Aside from the two works of art featured in 6 Underground, the film also features several shots of the museum's interior and an aerial view of its dome.

The museum has also been featured in a number of other productions.

Action-thriller The Misfits, starring Pierce Brosnan and Nick Cannon, includes a scene filmed at Louvre Abu Dhabi, as does the French language drama-thriller series Mirage.

Two more productions, which have yet to be released, also shot at the Louvre Abu Dhabi include the comedy North of the 10 and Inspector Jamshed, a film based on the novel series by Pakistani author Ishtiaq Ahmad.

Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity runs until Sunday at Louvre Abu Dhabi. More information is available at louvreabudhabi.ae

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Updated: February 03, 2023, 11:22 AM