The first thing visitors might notice as they approach the Louvre Abu Dhabi, on Saadiyat Island, is its massive domed roof. Its intricate latticework reflects the intercultural collaboration that brought the Jean Nouvel–designed museum, which opened to the public in November 2017, to life. From within, a visitor is treated to the dazzling display of engineering in the dome, but it also features delicate cupolas that are a hallmark of Arabic architecture.
Over 10 years of planning, the 17 French cultural institutions that comprise the Agence France-Muséums provided support in bringing the museum to life.
Now, it’s a national museum with a world-renowned name and affiliation that lends it a certain gravitas. “When you want to start something incredible, why start from scratch when we could gain the knowledge and expertise of the best and most popular museum in the world,” says Majed Al Hashly, head of the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s communications unit.
INSIDE THE MUSEUM
Dappled sunlight filters down through the dome, illuminating a map of the United Arab Emirates coastline on the floor, which is surrounded by the names of the cities from which the museum’s artworks originate. One of the first displays one encounters is of three fertility masks from different eras and nations.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s theme is universality, which means its exhibitions are arranged not by region but by time, progressing in chronological order and revealing the common artistic threads that unite all humanity.
As visitors move through the 55 detached, minimalist structures that make up the museum's galleries, they take a journey from the prehistoric era to the contemporary, with works from a cross-section of cultures.
In the religion-themed Gallery 4, for instance, one encounters a leaf from the Koran, a statue of Shiva, and a Gothic Bible.
“The universal narrative is one of the things that makes us distinct from global museums,” Al Hashly says. “With fascinating artifacts from antiquity to present day, we are telling the story of mankind.”