After a five-year delay, caused partly by a global financial crisis and plummet in oil prices, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will finally open to the public on November 11.
The Gulf branch of the iconic Paris museum was originally slated to open in 2012, and then 2016.
The announcement of a definite opening date was made at a press conference in the United Arab Emirates capital shortly after a speech by Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development.
“The Louvre is the crown jewel of Paris, and so the Louvre Abu Dhabi is destined for such distinction in this part of the world,” Al Nayhan told reporters.
Designed by Pritzker-winning architect Jean Nouvel, in a commission valued at 2.4 billion AED ($653,470,224) in 2013, the opening of the world’s first foreign Louvre branch in the UAE is undeniably a landmark coup for the Middle East art scene.
An island with ambition
In 2007, France’s most famous museum agreed to attach its name to a new space in the UAE, and to loan it artwork and special exhibitions, as well as offer management advice.
Ten years later, the soft curves and fresh white façade of the Louvre Abu Dhabi elegantly thrust into the glistening emerald waters of the Persian Gulf.
“We’ve been working on this for 7 years, and as you can imagine, it’s been an extremely stressful job. Jean Nouvel did not give us an easy building to build,” Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, told CNN.
It may not have been easy, but it was certainly beautiful.
Reportedly inspired by the oasis city of Al Ain and traditional Arabic architecture, Nouvel’s museum is notable for its elegant, understated, low-rise aesthetic.
Located on the western tip of Saadiyat Island — 27 square miles of reclaimed land, set to house commercial, residential and leisure projects — the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the inaugural attraction of the much-hyped Cultural District.
Occupying just 10% of the island, the district is also slated to feature a Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum and the Zayed National Museum, designed by British starchitect Norman Foster.
Construction work on both, however, remains in the very early stages.
What to expect
The museum will feature 23 permanent galleries, styled like medinas and low-lying Arab settlements, and featuring over 600 exhibits.
In the opening year, the museum will display 300 artworks from 13 key French institutions, such as the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Notable works will include Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Belle Ferroniere”, Claude Monet’s “Saint-Lazare” and Henri Matisse’s “Still Life With Magnolia.”
There will also be four temporary exhibitions throughout the year, with the first one fittingly based on the beginnings of the Louvre in Paris from the 17th century to 1793.