In Review

State of the art: The Louvre Abu Dhabi

The latest branch of the legendary French gallery brings world-class international collections to the capital of the United Arab Emirates

This month the Arab world will get its first universal museum, featuring collections that span civilisations and cultures, as the Louvre Abu Dhabi opens its doors. Part of Saadiyat Island, it marks one of the first major cultural institutions to launch in the region, where it is set to be joined by other landmark projects including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum.

Conceived in collaboration with the famed French museum from which it takes its name, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will house within its ambitious 'museum city' a vast collection of artworks and artefacts that trace human existence through the centuries, as well as featuring loans from a collection of France's top museums.

The complex, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, brings together 55 white buildings, which take inspiration from nearby low-lying Arab settlements, under a futuristic steel dome. Weighing in at 7,500 tonnes – nearly as heavy as the Eiffel tower – the structure features a complex geometric pattern of almost 8,000 stars on eight super-imposed layers, creating a dramatic effect inside as the sun's path progresses throughout the day and light filters through. As well as providing much-needed shade for the galleries housed below, the dome also aims to create a self-regulated microclimate for visitors to explore the 23 permanent galleries, temporary exhibitions, and retail and restaurant offerings.

The museum's collections, which begin with prehistoric artefacts and continue up to the modern day, will examine wide-ranging concepts of identity, religion, nationality and borders and their impact on civilisation. Notable pieces include paintings by Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso, while in the opening year there is also the opportunity to view approximately 300 artworks drawn from 13 French institutions. Among them is Leonardo da Vinci's La Belle Ferronniere from the Louvre, Claude Monet's Gare Saint-Lazare from the Musee d'Orsay and Henri Matisse's Still Life with Magnolia from the Pompidou Centre.

Highlighting the contemporary scene will be a number of commissioned artworks designed to interact with the building. Italian artist Giuseppe Penone has created a four-part installation inspired by his fascination with nature, the centrepiece of which is a bronze tree featuring mirrored branches that reflect the light penetrating the museum's dome. Elsewhere, American artist Jenny Holzer has created three stone walls engraved with important history texts, including excerpts from Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddimah, the Sumerian creation myth tablet and Michel de Montaigne's Essais, reflecting the diversity of the museum's scope.

Louvre Abu Dhabi opens on 11 November; louvreabudhabi.ae

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