We Visit the Louvre, Abu Dhabi

The Louvre Abu Dhabi provides a unique perspective on presenting the history of mankind. Here, everything is arranged chronologically, so you travel through time, rather than individual cultures. This results in an eclectic mix of artifacts and artworks ranging from Prehistoric times through to the world of today.

Walkway to the Louvre Museum, Abu Dhabi

Set on the edge of Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by Jean Nouvel, a Pritzker Prize winning French architect. Although there are 55 separate buildings in the museum, all are sheltered by the enormous 180 metre “Rain of Light” dome, composed of 7,850 stars.

The “Rain of Light” Dome in the Louvre, Abu Dhabi

“Rain of Light” on visitors to the museum

There are 23 galleries in the museum, divided into 12 separate chapters, showing the similarities in the development of different cultures throughout history. They demonstrate that, whatever their perceived cultural differences, all mankind has a shared intuition leading to the development of civilization.

Although many of the exhibits are loaned from the Louvre, Paris, and from other museums, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has also begun collecting its own artifacts for display.

The galleries begin with the first village communities, when  beliefs and rituals bound people together in groups.

Monumental Statue with Two Heads, dating from about 6500 BC 
(Department of Antiquities, Jordan)

This two-headed statue is one of the oldest monuments in the history of man. It was discovered in  the Neolithic village of Ain Ghazal, Jordan. It is not clear whether these are two ancestors, or two divinities, but it shows there was a belief system in place at that time.

Gradually the first kingdoms appeared, when powerful individuals began to be revered. This happened in all parts of the world at a similar time.

 Together in the same gallery are the statues of Gudea, Prince of Lagash,
and Ramesses II, pharaoh of Egypt.

Although the Greeks in the 5th century were renowned for concentrating on the human figure in their art, other artists elsewhere preferred to focus on animals as their symbolic decorations.

A winged dragon from Northern China, 475-221 BC, Louvre Abu Dhabi,
and a weight in the form of a lion, from Iran, Susa, about 330 BC.

Kingdoms gradually gave way to empires from about 1,000 BC, on most continents. But despite their differences in beliefs, and the distances separating them, there are surprising similarities in their art-work. The following two statues, while exhibiting cultural differences, were both inspired by the Greek tradition of sculpture, evident in the folds of their robes.

The statue of the “Orator”, sculpted in Rome in the 1st century BC, and
The statue of the bodhisattva, which was produced during the same period in Gandhara.

Leaping forward to the 18th century, art became focused on the individual, especially monarchs and important leaders. Many artistic pieces strove to create an historical record of the time for perpetuity.

Portrait of George Washington, First President of the United States by Gilbert Stuart, 1822, and
Portrait of Voltaire, French writer and philosopher by Nicholas de Largilliere, 1718…

…and Napoléon Bonaparte, Crossing the Alps on 20 May 1800 by Jacques-Louis David, 1803

When photography began to become a popular way of recording images, it revolutionised artistic creation. Painters began changing the way they translated their vision onto canvas.

The Fife Player by Edouard Manet, 1866, Musée d’Orsay

Self-Portrait by Vincent van Gogh, 1887. Musée d’Orsay

The Louvre Abu Dhabi presents the history of art right up to the present time, in a variety of genres.

Chirisei Kyubiki by Kazuo Shiraga, Japan, 1960. Louvre Abu Dhabi

For this, the artist  put the canvas on the ground and painted it with his feet. The artist described it as a struggle between himself, colour, and matter.

 Fountain of Light by Ai Weiwei, 2016 Louvre Abu Dhabi

Food for Thought, Al Muallaqat by Maha Malluh, Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Louvre Abu Dhabi

These eleven burned cooking pots were used to cook a traditional goat stew. For the artist, this is a visual poem, demonstrating the pots, blackened by fire, but retaining the imprint of the stories told during meal times in the nomadic tradition.

This is just a brief overview of all the Louvre museum, Abu Dhabi has to offer. It is an exciting way to present the history of the world through art, in a unique way, that brings together shared experiences and intuitions. I will definitely go again, and if you ever have the chance, you should too.

 Elizabeth Coughlan

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