Guggenheim Abu Dhabi announces new project director

Stephanie Rosenthal comes from the Gropius Bau in Berlin

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Guggenheim Abu Dhabi has announced Stephanie Rosenthal as project director of the institution, ahead of its opening on Saadiyat Island in 2025.

Rosenthal has been the director of the Gropius Bau, a major cultural and tourist attraction in Berlin, since 2018. She was previously the chief curator at Hayward Gallery in London, and a curator at the Haus der Kunst in Munich. She received a doctorate in art history from the University of Cologne and has published widely on performance within contemporary art.

At Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, she will work alongside Maisa Al Qassimi, acting project director of the museum, who has been on the project via the Department of Culture and Tourism for many years. Though first announced in 2008, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi has ramped up its plans last year, confirming an opening date and hiring staff as it prepares for the project's completion.

Video : Frank Gehry on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum

Video : Frank Gehry on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum

Beyond the construction deals, however, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection has been in process since the beginning. It concentrates on work from the Menasa region and now counts numerous key pieces from regional and UAE artists among its holdings.

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will cover 30,000 square metres, with its gallery spaces spread across four levels linked by glass bridges and a central atrium at its core. The building, which will stand 88 metres tall, will feature nine cone-shaped structures, which will be a space for both commissions and acquisitions.

Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, who is also behind the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the UAE site is set to be the latest and largest outpost of the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation’s list of international museums.

The museum aims to present global modern and contemporary art, said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi.

"As we move forward with our plans, it is crucial to recognise the impact of this museum in realising our vision for the emirate’s culture and creative industries. Investing in these industries is pivotal to the economic development of our emirate, and to our contribution to the global art world,” said Al Mubarak.

"Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, along with other cultural institutions such as Louvre Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum, will undoubtedly contribute significantly to a thriving creative scene."

Speaking to The National in September, Al Qassimi said Guggenheim Abu Dhabi was going to work with artists to create site-specific commissions for the museum over the next five years.

"We are going to continue with programming, research, collection [building] and our major focus will be commissions for the building and that takes a lot of time," she said. "It's really an exciting time that we're in that phase. We're in the phase of commissioning artists and definitely focusing on regional artists."

The aim is to have "a fully programmed museum at opening", Al Qassimi said.

More than a decade since its first acquisition, the museum has been building a transcultural collection, which today includes more than 600 works by 295 artists from 65 countries.

"In the past 10 years, we really have been doing a lot of research, heavy on seminars, we've been doing of lot of workshops with other academics in building this collection," Al Qassimi said.

Updated: May 15, 2022, 11:31 AM