It has been an incredible journey towards Louvre Abu Dhabi since the partnership to build and open the museum was announced between the governments of Abu Dhabi and France in 2007.
For those who have followed the foundations of a global museum designed to “house the aesthetic expressions of different civilisations and cultures” that journey has been part-hyperloop and part long, winding road as the inevitable quick-quick-slow-slow pace of construction and foundation, collection and curation, have moved towards completion.
Readers of this newspaper have enjoyed a ringside seat, with our reporters and photographers documenting each small step and every significant leap forward in the construction process. And now, of course, we know that the journey is almost over.
But before we look forward to the museum’s opening, we must first look back.
A decade ago, the artistic community in Abu Dhabi was only beginning to blossom. Through temporary exhibitions at Emirates Palace and later, at Manarat Al Saadiyat and via the Louvre Abu Dhabi Talking Art Series and Abu Dhabi Art. Universities, patrons and institutions have supported that process. So too have Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, among others, offering degrees in art and art history, as well as workshops and conferences.
The strong partnership between France and the UAE is also reflected in the active participation of Agence-France Museums in the training of Emirati curators, restorers and artists.
When it opens its doors to the public in November, the museum will tell one story: that of the world, composed of diverse and multiple civilisations, establishing a dialogue through time and beyond differences.
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Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said that the museum “reflects the UAE's approach towards cultural connectivity and its pursuit to become a beacon of knowledge and tolerance.”
Manuel Rabaté, director, Louvre Abu Dhabi, calls this “a universal narrative.”
Jean Francois-Charnier from Agence France-Museums says that Louvre Abu Dhabi will show art in dialogue: “We will not only be showing paintings with paintings or sculpture with sculpture or Near Eastern with Near Eastern. We are trying to cross all of these elements to try to tell a different story”.
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For those who have lived in the city or the country for the past ten years, the museum’s rising geometric lace dome has become a familiar landmark, marking the point where the older and more established districts of Abu Dhabi give way to the futuristic vision rising on Saadiyat island.
On November 11, those invisible borders will be replaced by the reality of a global museum – “a cradle for art and culture”, as Sheikh Mohammed describes it – on our doorstep. We know for sure that life in this country is unlikely to be the same again.