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Louvre Abu Dhabi

Through an intergovernmental agreement signed on March 6, 2007, France and the United Arab Emirates decided to create Louvre Abu Dhabi, a singular and unique museum which will bring together the dynamism of Abu Dhabi and the values of excellence embodied by the Louvre name.

The agreement will thus bestow the United Arab Emirates with an international museum that will place Abu Dhabi among the great cultural nations, and more particularly, the great museums of the world. More generally, the agreement will establish the United Arab Emirates as a central arena for dialogue between civilizations and cultures, particularly Occidental, Middle Eastern and Asian. The agreement will also forge a preferential cultural relationship with France, to benefit from its experience and its centuries-old heritage.

For France, the agreement underscores the excellence of its museum expertise and know-how through the design of a unique institution. It provides a cross-section of French public collections, showcasing them in a new light, for a new public. Given the high financial stakes involved, the agreement will in return allow for better development of projects by French museum partners of Louvre Abu Dhabi.

By making the museum a focus of its cultural development, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi underscores the museum institution’s capacity for invention and renewal.

The first universal museum in the Arab world, Louvre Abu Dhabi is an innovative and ambitious project. Transferring to an Arab country a cultural form born in Enlightenment Europe, its deep sense of identity is rooted in the notions of discovery, exchange and thus education. Its very name affirms the unprecedented alliance between the world’s biggest museum, a permanent place of beauty and knowledge, and modern Arabia, whose exceptional dynamism is at the heart of the contemporary world.  It is not a matter of reproducing the Louvre, or following its scientific itinerary to the letter, but rather extending in its name a generous invitation to a sensitive and enlightened view.

Through loans provided for in the intergovernmental agreement, the contributions from a number of French public collections, particularly those of the Agence France-Muséums shareholder institutions: the Centre Pompidou, the Musée d'Orsay and Musée de l'Orangerie, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, the Musée du Quai Branly, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, the Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet, the École du Louvre, the Musée Rodin, the Domaine National de Chambord, and the OPPIC will doubtless take these ideas to a new level. For the first time in their museum history, these ensembles will often find continuity and unity of presentation, going beyond habitual institutional boundaries. Multidisciplinary, and contemplating the concomitance and correspondence of artistic expressions from different civilizations, the scientific and cultural choices of Louvre Abu Dhabi will encourage the exploration of new approaches and open new perspectives on French museum heritage.

The polyphonic collections reflect the multicultural reality of current and future development in Abu Dhabi, a characteristic that prolongs Arabia’s age-old role as a bridge between the West and East, the North and South. The days of the Incense Route and the history of the Persian Gulf, which served as a link between Europe and the Indian Ocean, opening up exchanges between Asia and Africa, gave rise to the concept of a crossroads of civilizations that will be highlighted in museum exhibition spaces. The permanent and unique exchange between the East and West consequently established by Louvre Abu Dhabi will help this new cultural institution secure its place on the international museum scene. The creation in Abu Dhabi of other museums but also universities is sure to establish the Emirate as the new “go to” place for education and culture in this part of the world.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, an expression of the new global dimension of museums

The focus of Louvre Abu Dhabi is a universal vocation underlined in the intergovernmental agreement of March 6, 2007. The United Arab Emirates have thus taken a major step toward making Louvre Abu Dhabi the first universal museum in the Arab world. This decision, as bold as it may be, must not come as a surprise from a young country, still under construction, which intends to show its desire and need to embrace skills and knowledge. Acknowledging the universal nature of Louvre Abu Dhabi means fully embracing the constant and natural extension of the museum family. The intergovernmental agreement that presides over the creation of the institution provides the terms for an international collaboration of unprecedented scope. Clearly removed from the concept of a short-lived event, Louvre Abu Dhabi views the project at another level to lay the foundations of a sustainable institution bearing the Louvre name for thirty years. Its design is thus in keeping with the development of an international public, increasingly diverse and greater in number for the Louvre and French museums, regarded around the world as a gold standard of cultural excellence.
The project excludes no one: all cultures and civilizations that make up the global inventory of humanity are invited to express themselves, and the public as a whole is invited to visit. Since dialogue implies mutual understanding, in-depth reflection on outreach will aim to meet the challenge of difference and otherness to create the conditions for genuine interactiveness with the public. The multicultural nature of dialogue is, for that matter, perceived as a chance to enrich the diversity of points of view. To rise to this challenge, the museum will promote dialogue between collections as diverse as prehistoric art, French eighteenth-century furnishings, the art of Islam, India and China, African art, contemporary art, and so on. 

Universalism, an historical and philosophical foundation: Louvre Abu Dhabi in relation to the Louvre and French museums

Taking a universalist approach to a project is a challenge. It needs to be reiterated here that to design a museum today from a universalist perspective is to consider the mission of this institution on the basis of dialogue, respect and teaching on the diversity of artistic and cultural expression. Universalism does not mean unilateralism. The question of Louvre Abu Dhabi as a universal museum warrants clarification. Obviously, the answer is manifold and has to compare the different perspectives found within an unprecedented project.

The first, and most obvious, perspective of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s universalism stems from the history of museums and particularly that of the Louvre, whose excellence will be conveyed by the future institution. The palace that became the Muséum National in 1793 was a product of the encyclopedic thought of the Enlightenment and of the French Revolution.

Sharing artistic wealth, educational mission, national dimension and cultural outreach — all the historical bases of the universal museum have thus been established and in many respects are found today in the creation of Louvre Abu Dhabi. The Louvre serves here as a model and a reference, but these must be adapted to a new context, to accurately meet the major challenge of the agreement of March 6, 2007, and to meet the fundamental demand for cultural transfer between France and Abu Dhabi. The challenge of this transfer is all the more complex and exhilarating in that it has a twofold focus on innovation and historical and museum tradition. This challenge offers the Louvre and French museums the potential to show their capacity to create, together, a museum of the twenty-first century.

Louvre Abu Dhabi : projet architectural

Louvre Abu Dhabi : projet architectural

© TDIC, AJN, Artefactory, Louvre Abu Dhabi

In the image of the architectural project by Jean Nouvel who invents a museum-city, a city-world through a variation on the forms of Arab architecture, the universalism of Louvre Abu Dhabi must give rise to a genuine cultural mix. In this respect, Louvre Abu Dhabi will demonstrate its universality first and foremost by its collections. The geographical, historical and cultural reality of Abu Dhabi is that of a bridge between the East and West, understood in their broadest sense, to which the United Arab Emirates’s request to France has given an added dimension with strong symbolism. How can one not henceforth wish for this gesture of trust and openness toward others to be one of openness to the world’s artistic diversity? Because the history of Louvre Abu Dhabi is just starting to be written, it is easier for us to unlock the potential of this wide range of approaches from the outset.

Le songe de Jacob de Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (détail). Louvre Abu Dhabi : Collections

Le songe de Jacob de Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (détail). Louvre Abu Dhabi : Collections

© TDIC, Louvre Abu Dhabi

The Louvre’s universalist postulate, closely connected to its name, invites us to consider for Louvre Abu Dhabi a consolidation of this long museum-building process. A consolidation undertaken in the 6,000 sq.m of permanent galleries and the 2,000 sq.m of temporary exhibition space, where the pooling of French public collections, and the museum’s own collection, will foster new exchanges and authorize innovative museographic developments to better address visitor diversity. The choice of artworks presented, with regard to their rather limited number — 600 artworks are planned for the opening of the museum, combining loans from French collections and acquisitions for the museum’s own collection—is a key issue. They will have to provide the museum with a singular and ongoing discourse, while giving visitors the opportunity to encounter artistic creation and enjoy the esthetics of art. In this respect, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s acquisition policy, steered by Agence France-Muséums curators, in conjunction with the major heritage departments of France, must be a reflection of this broad openness to artistic diversity. 

Inscribed by its name and creation in the community of great international museums, Louvre Abu Dhabi is, naturally, called to be a full member and to play a major role. It will thus serve as an important center for art history and research in this region of the world, providing an opportunity to introduce and support specific programs in the fields of its collections and its new approaches.

The challenges of the museum’s educational role

Carried by a desire to promote an unprecedented cultural transfer between France and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Louvre Abu Dhabi will play a major educational role. It will remain true to the educational missions of the Louvre and the French museums that were at the heart of the creation in 1793, and are renewed to this day. Involvement in the École du Louvre project, being a shareholder of the Agence France-Muséums and the Institut national du patrimoine, provides an opportunity to conceive, starting today, of training programs for future museum employees, combining theoretical teaching and work placements in French museums. These work placements will establish strong, long-lasting ties between the French professionals and their future Emirate colleagues, thus creating the conditions for rich dialogue between Louvre Abu Dhabi and French museums. The launch in Abu Dhabi, scheduled for November 2010, of a Masters in Museum Studies, teaming for the first time the École du Louvre and the Université Paris IV Sorbonne, underlines the strength of this French commitment. The courses, given by university professors and museum professionals, in French, English and Arabic, at the Paris Sorbonne Louvre Abu Dhabi faculty, will enable students, many of whom are from the Emirates, to obtain an internationally recognized diploma from the two institutions, leading to research work for those who wish to take their career in this direction.

In addition, Louvre Abu Dhabi will be a privileged location for discovery and research in archeology and art history, welcoming researchers and scientists. The transfer of knowledge, a core mission of the Louvre and French museums, will thus also be one of the major roles of the future museum.

The opportunity for a cultural project shared by two nations, an unprecedented collaborative venture for French museums

Based on an original scientific and cultural project, nurtured by the museum and cultural values symbolized by the Louvre name, the Louvre Abu Dhabi project thus places the museum’s primary missions—to preserve, develop, exhibit and explain—at the heart of its creation. It is, there again, and no doubt primarily, one of the greatest opportunities of this project, which gives new impetus to museum professions by underscoring their dynamism and creativity, even stronger now that they are nourished by the demands of loyalty to a remarkable tradition.

Practical information

The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Night opening until 9:45 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays
Closed on the following holidays: January 1, May 1, December 25
Musée du Louvre, 75058 Paris - France
Métro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7)
Tel.: +33 (0)1 40 20 53 17

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