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Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi creates ‘rain of light’

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The new museum’s shallow dome and filigree ceiling allow a ‘rain of light’ into its galleries

The museum, which will open to the public on Saturday with a week-long series of celebrations, is trumpeted as the first of its kind in the Arab region. Hailed as an ’iconic architectural masterpiece’ and designed by Jean Nouvel, it is located on the waterfront in Abu Dhabi’s cultural district on Saadiyat Island. It is the result of a 30-year deal worth over £663 million between the French state and the Emirate, for use of the French institution’s hallowed name and the loan of works from its collections, as well as 13 partner museums across France.

Most striking is the vast 180m diameter dome-like roof, covered in nearly 8,000 star shapes that cast what Nouvel has called a ‘rain of light’, secured at just four points over a cluster of stark white cubes below. Interiors are incredibly bespoke, with furniture and fittings also designed by Nouvel.

Earlier this year Nouvel defended the treatment of workers on the site after accusations that workers there and on the neighbouring Guggenheim site had been submitted to conditions of forced labour. He said this was an ’old question’, insisting that conditions for workers had been checked at the beginning of the project and were as good if not better than those he’d seen in other countries. 

1. louvre abu dhabi germination by giuseppe penone © louvre abu dhabi – photography roland halbe (1)

1. louvre abu dhabi germination by giuseppe penone © louvre abu dhabi – photography roland halbe (1)

Source: Roland Halbe

The inaugural installation in its spacious collection galleries will present 600 works of art, half from the Louvre’s holdings, and half consisting of works on loan from the partner museums. The museum will also begin an ongoing programme of special exhibitions in December.

The museum’s collection will explore what the museum calls a ’universal narrative’ through artworks and artefacts from all over the world. The inaugural installation will take visitors on a chronological journey from prehistory to the present day, encompassing 12 chapters including the birth of the first villages; universal religions; cosmography; the magnificence of the royal court; and the modern world.   

Architect’s view

Abu Dhabi embodies an exceptional programme in the literal sense of the word. Its vocation is now to express what is universal throughout the ages. Its architecture makes it a place of convergence and correlation between the immense sky, the sea horizon and the territory of the desert. Its dome and cupola imprint the space with the consciousness of time and of the moment through an evocative light of a spirituality that is its own.

Jean Nouvel

Client’s view

Louvre Abu Dhabi sets a benchmark for the region, attracting the next generation of talented museum professionals. It has reinvented the 18th century premise of the universal museum for a demanding contemporary audience. In a complex multi-narrative world, these ideas are more important than ever. By exhibiting works from diverse cultures in the same space, our curation shows the interconnectedness of different ideologies, aesthetics and artistic techniques. The museum story transports visitors through a history of humanity illuminated by our collection of exceptional treasures.

Manuel Rabaté, director of Louvre Abu Dhabi

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