Today marks the beginning of one of the most momentous weeks in Abu Dhabi's cultural calendar this year. Our flagship art fair Abu Dhabi Art opens with a pioneering new online approach, and as the world celebrates the Unesco International Day of Tolerance tomorrow, Louvre Abu Dhabi and New York University Abu Dhabi play host to Reframing Museums. This symposium provides the stage for us to re-imagine the future and engage in meaningful dialogue about the critical issues of our time, bringing together an array of speakers and thinkers.
This year, we are celebrating Louvre Abu Dhabi's anniversary in a year like no other. In three short years the museum's achievements have made a remarkable impact on Abu Dhabi's cultural scene; a museum that began as an idea shared by the governments of Abu Dhabi and France is now a beacon for our community and the world.
Its collection continues to grow, bringing together hundreds of artworks and artefacts to tell an inspiring story of humanity’s history. Its building has established a new standard in museum architecture, an approach where the joy and mindfulness of the space itself are an integral part of the experience. And Louvre Abu Dhabi’s team has grown from strength to strength, bringing creative new thinking and deep cultural expertise to craft that offering.
Louvre Abu Dhabi and the symposium are the living embodiment of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi's strategy of putting culture at the heart of the emirate's development. Culture offers us the ability to expand our minds and explore our world. A long-term commitment to developing an artistically conscious and creative city is therefore a vital pillar of Abu Dhabi's transition to a diversified, knowledge-driven economy.
Developments such as Louvre Abu Dhabi give our emirate an important voice in today’s global conversations around culture and allow us to be a convener of conversations and a platform for diverse voices. But even more importantly, they are fundamental to Abu Dhabi’s mission to find unity in diversity; to instil understanding and empathy across nationalities, borders and religions; and to make cultural expression in all its forms a key part of our everyday lives.
Nowhere is this clearer than in our vision for Saadiyat Island, which in the coming few years will develop into one of the world's most vibrant destinations.
Alongside Louvre Abu Dhabi and Manarat Al Saadiyat, the Saadiyat Cultural District will be home to arts institutions such as the Zayed National Museum, which is taking shape beautifully and will soon echo the stories of the UAE’s past, present and future, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which empowers artists from all walks of life with a consciously global collection.
Saadiyat has also emerged as a regional centre for education and the liberal arts, with our partners at NYU Abu Dhabi producing research, thinking and programming that benefit and inspire the local community as well as students. Saadiyat Island is also developing into a physical manifestation of the UAE's fundamental values of tolerance, mutual understanding and harmonious co-existence, with the Abrahamic Family House – a multi-faith complex.
Each of these developments is underpinned by our vision of welcoming the world to celebrate our similarities and connections, not our differences or divisions. In these unprecedented times, that feeling of interrelatedness – being part of something larger than ourselves – is more important than ever.
The challenges of 2020 have affected us around the world on a personal and collective level. But throughout the uncertainty, I have come to reflect on how inspiringly adaptable, flexible and creative the world has shown itself to be. This year has compelled us to innovate, and we have done so successfully by putting people at the heart of our mission.
Culture plays a critical role in connecting people with one another, uniting us towards a common purpose, bridging inequalities, and uplifting our spirits, and this year’s obstacles have reminded us of that profound role. As a pillar of the Abu Dhabi community, DCT – Abu Dhabi has looked inwards to understand how we can better operate as a vital connector in society and a catalyst to forge mutual understanding.
Despite the disruption, we never lost sight of the role we play for the people we serve – our community, our employees and our audiences regionally and worldwide – who are, more than ever, at the heart of our efforts.
Granting access to cultural content on virtual channels to 4.5 million visitors is one way we have re-imagined the way we engage with our audiences. But for long-term change and impact, we must play a role in discussing, debating and exploring sustainable solutions for the future.
Abu Dhabi has continuously welcomed communities from all around the globe, acting as a junction point between continents. We take pride in championing our heritage and presenting distinctively local perspectives – in harmony with our diversity, our progressive thinking and our global communities.
Milestone moments like this symposium are the epitome of this cultural balance. Cross-cultural dialogue and understanding quite simply is Louvre Abu Dhabi’s raison d’etre, and more broadly Saadiyat Island’s too.
Abu Dhabi is a place that believes in striving for greatness: challenging ourselves to dream bigger, think differently, and create a new model for the future that we work every day to realise. This belief entails a responsibility to engage actively in dialogue that will help pave the way forward. Through continuous exchange and partnership, we will emerge stronger and better able to shape a collective future for everyone.
Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak is Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi