Seeking the warmth of the Arabian Gulf, leaving behind the Siberian High sweeping through Korea, in 2016, my husband and I sought out one of our favorite places, Abu Dhabi. During this trip, our tour guide pointed out the construction of the Abu Dhabi Louvre.
I have traveled numerous times to Qatar and seen its spectacular Museum of Islamic Arts, as well as their unrivaled Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art.
I was curious about the new entry in what I call “The Gulf States Arts Race.”
The Unexpected & The Architect
Open just under a year when I visited the Louvre Abu Dhabi, I was surprised at how I fell in love with the Museum. In the just less than two years since I was last in Abu Dhabi, the project had slipped from my sphere. From time to time I would see an article on its progress, but I was busy with other projects. I simply hadn’t made visiting the newly opened Museum a priority.
The Architect, Jean Nouvel’s vision sees "Bridging Land and Sea." He succeeded. I believe he created the perfect background of calmness with which to view "the cultural achievements of mankind from prehistoric times to the present day."
And, while I certainly wouldn’t call myself a Jean Nouvel “Groupie” I do have a bit of history with his work. I have had the pleasure of seeing his:
Museum Two, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea
Doha Tower Skyscraper, Doha, Qatar
100 Eleventh Avenue, Manhattan, NY, USA
Golden Angel (Zlatý Anděl), Prague, Czech Republic
And in my opinion, prior to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, one of his most iconic & my favorite of his work - Gasometer A, Vienna, Austria.
Even the Museum's Café was designed by the Louvre’s famous architect, Jean Nouvel. His vision for the Café was to create a space where, "visitors can hope for waves of the sea to touch the sky," while enjoying your dining experience.
Every detail in the Café has a nod to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, such as the paper placemats with the iconic roof design. The Café’s desire is to tell “international stories that highlight the similarities between us, in harmony with the spirit of the museum."
A New Light
Nouvel’s play on light in the Louvre Abu Dhabi I feel falls under one of those extraordinarily rare places where even the most vivid of descriptors cannot reveal the experience. Each corner of the Museum offers a new play on light, a new way of viewing the Arabian Gulf, Abu Dhabi, and the piercing Sun of the Desert.
This extends into the play of light in how he offers light for exhibits. During this visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, I was particularly moved by an Oriental Rug Display. Light plays on our souls in different ways.
And, while among the great works of art from van Gogh to Picasso to da Vinci and the multitude of early Islamic works and writings, this piece spoke to me of my childhood. The plays of light I grew up with in my family home in Virginia. Light from the sky, enlightening our home.
A Universal Museum in the Arab World
اللوفر أبو ظبي
The Art World and the development of Museums are nearly always plagued by controversy. As someone who incorporates Art into my Travels, I have been blessed with the confidences of those in the Art World who have shared their experiences and opinions with me about several new museums which have recently opened.
I view Museums as much like Theaters. Do I really care if the Director and the Leading Actress had a raging dispute before the play? No. I care about the performance.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi spoke to my soul. I found it to truly be a Universal Museum in the Arab World whose light offers new perspectives on as they had hoped in a "spirit of respect, curiosity, learning, and self-reflection."