Louvre Abu Dhabi turns one

We look at the Saadiyat Island museum as it reaches milestone

Photo by Grace Guino  ITP Images
ITP Images
Photo by Grace Guino ITP Images

Many cities are known for their incredible art galleries. Culture vultures flock to London for the Tate Modern, Florence for the Uffizi and New York for the Museum of Modern Art.

But while Abu Dhabi is famous for its F1 circuit, brilliant beaches and mesmerising desert setting, those living outside the capital might not realise just how incredible the art scene is here.

Home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a wide array of independent galleries and a yearly art festival, the city is alive with creativity and arty things to do.

Plus, if you’re an amateur artist, there are so many community projects and classes to get involved in.

So read on to find out why Abu Dhabi is the new cultural capital of the world.

Louvre Abu Dhabi
Amazingly, it’s already been a whole year since the Louvre opened its doors to the public for the first time (we know, time just goes way too fast).

If you haven’t been to see this wonderful museum yet, we won’t judge you too harshly. But honestly, you need to get yourself over to Saadiyat Island and pay this incredible place a visit.

The arrival of the attraction was met with total excitement, and 12 months on it is just as enrapturing and amazing to behold.

Since opening, it has been named one of the Seven Urban Wonders of the World. Sydney’s Opera House and London’s Camden Market also have a place on the list compiled by Hilton Hotels and Resorts.

The structure of the museum really is beautiful. Before you even start to examine the amazing objects that are housed inside, you’ll be totally wowed by the building itself.

Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, this is the kind of architecture that was made for Instagram (well, that probably wasn’t actually what he created it for but you get the idea).

The roof is made from thousands of metal stars, and when the sun filters through the gaps, the effect is absolutely stunning.

Just walking around the promenade, looking out over the water and photographing the cool tree statue and other striking pieces of art is a brilliant start to your visit.

Then when you get inside, the collection of more than 900 incredible artworks and artefacts is out-of-this-world amazing.
Spanning whole centuries and civilisations, walking through the collection, spread over 6,400 sq m of gallery space, is an awe-inspiring experience. The pieces are arranged in chronological order, and the collection tells the story of humanity through 12 equally fascinating chapters.

The works range from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary art pieces. Alongside the museum’s own pieces, many works are on loan from famous French museums such as the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Witnessing the history of humanity condensed into 12 intriguing rooms makes for a wonderful day out.
Dhs60 (general admission), Dhs30 (concessions). Open Sat-Wed 10am-8pm, Thu-Fri 10am-10pm. Saadiyat Cultural District, Saadiyat Island (600 565 566).

Japanese Connections: The Birth of Modern Décor
In addition to the museum’s collection, ticket holders can also view a programme of rotating seasonal exhibitions.

Japanese Connections: The Birth of Modern Décor explores the strong link between Japanese and French art.

Containing paintings, prints and screens that demonstrate the cultural dialogues that took place between the East and West during the 19th and 20th centuries, it is on display until November 24.

The exhibition also looks at how woodblock painting and ukiyo-e – the iconic and very colourful genre of Japanese painting – still influences, and is visible in, European modern art to this day.

Depicting beautiful landscapes featuring scenes of Mount Fuji, waterfalls and cherry blossom, as well as stunning representations of everyday life and relationships, there are 41 pieces of art and 15 documents available to view.

The artists on display include Paul Sérusier, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Édouard Vuillard, Marguerite Sérusier and Odilon Redon.

There are also pieces from Japanese ukiyo-e masters Katsushika Hokusai, Hara Zaimei, Utagawa Hiroshige, Kano Tanshin
and Toshusai Sharaku.

Curated by Isabelle Cahn, general curator at Musée d’Orsay, the exhibition is part of a wider programme that celebrates the arts and culture of Japan.

Running alongside the exhibition is the Manga Lab, a creative space where young adults can enjoy exploring the many
brilliant elements of contemporary Japanese youth culture.

Containing a selection of retro arcade games, a graffiti and expression wall, chill-out reading area, plus a series of masterclasses and workshops about Manga and graphic art, there’s plenty to keep every generation thoroughly entertained.
Free with entry ticket. Until Nov 24.

Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia
The most recent addition to the museum explores the rich history of both our neighbouring country and the UAE.

Featuring a diverse collection of archaeological pieces and Islamic art, it tells the interesting story of the Arabian Peninsula.

The display is split into five chapters. These cover areas such as early prehistoric settlements, maritime exploration, routes of holy pilgrimage and social and economic developments in the region between the 14th and 16th centuries.

A joint project between the Musée de Louvre in Paris and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, the collection has been displayed in 15 cities worldwide since its debut in the French capital in 2010.

The showing at the Louvre Abu Dhabi also includes some carefully selected pieces from the UAE. These have been included in order to demonstrate how archaeological research has progressed here. Artefacts include a pearl found in Umm Al Quwain dating from 5500-5300 BCE, some 1st millennium BCE pieces from Saruq al Hadid and thought-provoking objects from the medieval city of Julfar.

We’re convinced history buffs will love every piece in this brilliant collection.
Free with entry ticket. From Nov 8-Feb 16.

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