The Louvre Abu Dhabi
By: Mario Habashy/Arab America Contributing Writer
The result of a ten year intergovernmental deal between France and the United Arab Emirates is, at last, coming to fruition. The stunning Louvre Abu Dhabi became open to the masses on in November of last year.
The new Louvre boasts galleries that contain pieces from the ancient Egyptian era all the way to the postmodern era and almost everything in between. Abu Dhabi wants to create a universal museum and by adopting such a well-recognized name their mission became much easier to carry out. The overall goal of the new Louvre is to “connect us together” says Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Dept. of Culture and Tourism. Not only can a wider range of cultural artifacts now be seen on display in the United Arab Emirates, but a wider range of demographic can now be seen flooding the streets as tourism is forecasted to spike.
The positive press that the new Louvre has received will inevitably create a positive cascading effect throughout all of Abu Dhabi. The press will attract tourists, which will attract a flare of local businesses to serve the needs of the new visitors. All will effectively result in an imminent boost to the UAE economy.
Nevertheless, the name brand of the “Louvre” came at a hefty price. The more than 520 million dollar fee would have been a hurdle for almost any country to jump through, but it by no means deterred the culturally driven Arabs in the UAE. Mubarak himself is not phased by the high price tag, rather he claims that “culture is worth it.”
Upon examining the exterior of the new Louvre, the reason behind the high price tag for its construction becomes immediately apparent.
First and foremost, the design of the Louvre is art in and of itself. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, the architecture of the Louvre Abu Dhabi leaves the viewer breathless. The modern design promotes a dialogue between cultures, which is on point with the overall conception of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi. Nouvel states that his masterful design takes “a form that matches its function as a sanctuary for the most valuable works of art.”
For context, the dome alone is 180 meters in diameter, weighs over 7700 tons, and rests on a dry dock made from 503,000 cubic meters of sand!
The dazzling exterior only prepares the onlookers for the marvelous interior. The museum experience is intended to make the visitor feel as if the museum was his own. The local greeters at the door welcome visitors by saying welcome to “your museum,” not “our museum” nor “the Louvre Abu Dhabi” says Mubarak. Every facet of the Louvre Abu Dhabi attempts to create a unifying experience nested in a collective love of culture.
On a more pragmatic side, Abu Dhabi has never truly been at the heart of the modern art scene. In building this monumental museum, however, Abu Dhabi hopes that it can leverage the fluidity of the modern art scene in its favor. Though speculation is high about whether Abu Dhabi’s hopes will ripen, only time will tell if the modern art scene will follow the modern infrastructure.
The conclusion of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi is just the beginning for the ambitious Arabs in the UAE. In the coming years, Abu Dhabi plans to open another mega museum: the Guggenheim Museum, which it plans will rival the grandeur of the recently opened Louvre.
Still, through all this, in the words of Mubarak: “the winner here is culture.”