First Published: 2017-11-07

Louvre Abu Dhabi, where Matisse meets George Washington
Museum, aiming to tell story of world’s civilisations, expects to welcome around 5,000 visitors in its first days upon public opening on November 11.
Middle East Online

A star attraction is Leonardo da Vinci's "La Belle Ferronniere"

ABU DHABI - Nested under a dome with geometric arabesque patterns and appearing to float on water, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is now home to Matisse, Mondrian -- and George Washington.

The abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko hangs a few steps away from Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh and a portrait of George Washington in 12 "chapters", or galleries, in the Emirati capital.

Other galleries are dedicated to artifacts from China, Iraq and DR Congo, among others, aimed at telling the story of the civilisations and religions of the world.

The museum expects to welcome around 5,000 visitors in its first days which start with the public opening on November 11, according to Mohammed al-Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority.

"Because this is an international museum, we're expecting visitors from around the world," Mubarak said during a media tour ahead of the inauguration ceremony to be held on Wednesday.

"So a museum visitor from China will find something that speaks to her, to her history. A visitor from India will find the same."

On an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, the galleries sit inside low-roofed white structures, reminiscent of an Arab "medina", surrounded by water that flows between the museum buildings.

In one gallery -- or chapter -- is a dark, quiet room home to a leaf from the Blue Qu'ran, a ninth century manuscript with gold lettering on blue parchment.

Right next to the koran sit a 1498 Yemeni Pentateuch, the first book of the Jewish Torah, and two volumes of a Gothic bible bound in calfskin going back to the 13th century.

A star attraction, according to organisers, is Leonardo da Vinci's "La Belle Ferronniere," the portrait of an unknown woman, which is on loan from the Louvre in Paris.

And on your way out is Ai Weiwei's 23-foot-high "Fountain of Light," a spiralling structure draped in crystals inspired by communist plans for a massive monument that never actually saw the light of day.

The opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first museum to carry the famed art brand outside of France, comes after a more than five-year delay.

The launch comes a decade after France and the UAE agreed to a 30-year partnership reportedly worth $1.1 billion, including nearly half a billion dollars for the rights to the Louvre brand alone.

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to attend the inauguration on his first visit to the United Arab Emirates since taking office in May.

 

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