Louvre Abu Dhabi museum director Manuel Rabate calls next year’s exhibitions and performances “our boldest and most extensive programme to date”. Around the theme of “Changing Societies”, the Saadiyat Island museum will explore key moments of change, from the meeting of the Islamic East and Christian West in the Middle Ages to the explosion of artistic practices in Paris in the early 20th century. It will also explore the history of luxury, in an extensive exhibition looking at the work of high-fashion houses such as Christian Dior, Chanel, Cartier, and Hermes.
“Our new and exciting season is designed to pioneer different ways to engage the museum’s diverse audiences, offering them innovative experiences and a deeper understanding of the universal themes presented in our permanent galleries,” says Rabate.
Both exhibitions are run in conjunction with the museum’s partners in France, and will again be accompanied by live performances, film programming and events for families.
In September, the museum will look at the famous period of the early 20th century when artists from across Europe flocked to Paris to upend traditional ways of making art. Out went the Renaissance perspective, conventional distinctions between high and low, and even the idea that art should simply be on the wall. Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Rendezvous in Paris: Picasso, Chagall, Modigliani & Co (1900-1939), organised in conjunction with the Centre Pompidou, will take the breadth of that heady time that still defines the idea of the avant-garde.
The museum will accompany this exhibition live programming by the extraordinary choreographer Elizabeth Streb — who, a century on from the historical avant-garde, continues its spirit of pushing dance and the human body beyond what most of its audience expects. Streb and her New York-based company will create a performance via living machines that will roam the galleries on the weekend of September 18-21, inspired by the visual artists’ literary contemporaries of Apollinaire and Jean Cocteau. Streb has been invited by British theatre director Ruth Mackenzie, who is curating the museum’s public programming this year.
In October, the museum will open its anticipated 10,000 Years of Luxury, focusing on fashion, jewellery and design. While exhibitions about fashion are nothing new, this will be the first dedicated show in the region and the first to look at luxury in relation to society — as a mode, the museum quite beautifully puts it, either of underlining or undermining the status quo. Organised with the Musee des Arts Decoratifs the museum shows luxury as also being more than just the valet section of The Dubai Mall: appreciation of craft and even a love of excess are cultural constants.
Both exhibitions will be accompanied by performances and film programmes, the latter curated by Dubai artist Hind Mezaina. In previous programmes, her selection has been inspired by historical exhibitions and rare films by the likes of Wim Wenders, Binnur Karaevli and Nujoom Alghanem. The full line-up will be announced shortly.
As always, the museum, whose collection is comprised of around 50 per cent loans, will be updating its permanent hang. New works going on show in September include part of a sculpture from Egypt in the 4th century BCE and a suit of imperial armour from China in the 19th century. The museum will also show off some new acquisitions made during previous temporary exhibitions, such as Rembrandt's live study of Head of Young Man, which it debuted during Rembrandt, Vermeer and the Dutch Golden Age.
The display in the modern and contemporary galleries is likewise continuing to shift. A new focus, from September, takes in the idea of different perspectives from around the world, with artefacts from different traditional societies. New works for modern and contemporary will include Manet's Berthe Morisot with bouquet of violets (1872) from the Musee d'Orsay, an untitled 2008 sculpture by Anish Kapoor from the Centre Pompidou, and a light-filled installation by the French-Austrian artist Susanna Fritscher that will be adapted specifically for Louvre Abu Dhabi.
In the spring, the museum goes further back in time to look at the meeting of two similar concepts that were elaborated by apparent rivals: the Islamic East and the Christian West, which met on the battlefields of the Levant during the Crusades. Organised with the Musee de Cluny, Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry pairs the knights’ code of chivalric conduct with the Arab equivalent of furusiyya, in a show about tales of honour, war and courtly love.
Finally, also in the spring, the museum returns to the 20th century to look at another crossover: that of art and cinema, when the new medium intersected with painting, drawing and sculpture in the 1900s. Charlie Chaplin: When Art Met Cinema shows the connections between Chaplin and contemporary art movements such as Constructivism, Surrealism and Dadaism, which all tried to make sense of the changes brought in by modernisation and industrialisation, and the cataclysms of the world wars.
And the Children’s Museum, that ace up the sleeve for visitors with kids in tow, will again shadow the museum’s larger programming. A costume exhibition also launches in September, allowing kids to play-act the period of the avant-garde — hopefully, though, without breaking quite as many rules.
Rendezvous in Paris: Picasso, Chagall, Modigliani & Co (1900-1939) runs from September 18-December 7; 10,000 Years of Luxury runs from October 30-February 15, 2020; Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West runs from February 19, 2020-May 30, 2020; Charlie Chaplin: When Art Met Cinema runs from April 15, 2020-July 11, 2020, dates are subject to change, check the website for updates, www.louvreabudhabi.ae