DUBAI - Louvre Abu Dhabi, when it was opened a year ago, was presented as the Emirate’s gift to the world. Looking back after the first anniversary, the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi can be happy and much satisfied with how its global architectural and cultural icon has become a favoured destination in Abu Dhabi.
Designed by Jean Nouvel, Louvre Abu Dhabi was inspired by traditional Islamic architecture and its monumental dome creates a rain of light effect and a unique social space that brings people together.
In its first year, Louvre Abu Dhabi welcomed more than 1 million visitors, establishing itself as one of the leading cultural institutions on the global stage.
Museum Chairman Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak thanked the French and regional partners for the strong collaboration that supported “the museum’s mission to tell universal stories.”
Mubarak said it produced “the next generation of Emirati museum professionals, who are trained to the highest standard in the cultural sector and are leaders in their field.”
UAE residents have taken to the museum in a big way, making it their favourite cultural destination to gather with family and friends and 40% of the museum’s visitors are UAE residents. Emirati nationals are among the top two nationalities of residents who visited the museum and are the top nationality of repeat visitors.
Louvre Abu Dhabi has also become a global magnet driving tourism to the Emirate. Overseas visitors come from all parts of the globe, with France, Germany, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, India and Gulf Cooperation Council countries the top visitors.
The museum has hosted more than 1,000 school trips, 5,000 guided tours, workshops and masterclasses and programmed 115 special events, including heritage performances, talks, film screenings and concerts with more than 400 artists from 22 countries.
With training support from the French, 47% of the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s staff members are Emirati nationals. They include curators working on the collection and in the permanent galleries, as well as in the education and media teams.
Manuel Rabate, director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said the museum “endeavoured to offer experiences that celebrate human creativity.”
“Not only are we privileged to gather such treasures under our iconic dome on Saadiyat Island but we are also thrilled that so many visitors came to discover our universal narrative this year,” Rabate said.
“On one hand, we have access to some of the most incredible collections and benefit from collaborating with some of the world’s most qualified museum experts. On the other, being a young museum in this region empowers us to be experimental and encourages us to be agile to appeal to our diverse audiences.”
In February, Louvre Abu Dhabi introduced the Highway Gallery, the world’s first roadside gallery, spanning 100km of the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway and inviting commuters and visitors to tune in to local radio stations to listen to a curator’s presentation on each work displayed on billboards.
Since its opening, in partnership with French museum partners and as part of its first season “A World of Exchanges,” Louvre Abu Dhabi has presented several international exhibitions: “From One Louvre to Another: Opening a Museum for Everyone,” “Globes: Visions of the World,” “Japanese Connections: The Birth of Modern Decor” and “Roads of Arabia: Archaeological Treasures of Saudi Arabia”; as well as “CO-LAB,” an exhibition showcasing new commissions by UAE-based artists in collaboration with French manufacturers.
The museum presented family-friendly exhibitions in its Children’s Museum, including “Traveling Shapes and Colours,” and the recently displayed “Animals: Between Real and Imaginary.”
The museum has made many additions to its display. This autumn, it unveiled 11 world-class acquisitions in its permanent galleries, alongside significant loans from 13 French partner institutions as well as regional and international museums.
As part of this year’s first large-scale loan rotation, the museum curated a major rehang of its modern and contemporary art galleries, updated its displays and showcased approximately 40 masterpieces for visitors to discover and explore in the forthcoming year.
Some major loans, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “La belle ferronniere” from Musee du Louvre and Whistler’s “Portrait of the Artist’s Mother” from Musee d’Orsay will stay in Abu Dhabi for another year, totalling 300 loans on display.
N.P. Krishna Kumar is an Arab Weekly correspondent in Dubai.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.