The governments of Abu Dhabi – the capital of the United Arab Emirates – and the Republic of France have entered into an unprecedented 30-year cultural accord which will see the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum created within the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island – lying just 500 metres from Abu Dhabi city.
“This is a major achievement in Abu Dhabi’s vision to become a world-class destination bridging global cultures,” said Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. “This accord further strengthens international dialogue, which will embrace all cultures.
“This initiative is a unique milestone in international co-operation and bi-lateral relations and a tribute to the long-standing and friendly ties our two nations have enjoyed. It also creates an enriching environment to be treasured by and to educate generations to come.”
This opportunity provides for long-term loans from the Louvre and major French museums such as the Musee du Quai Branley, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee d’Orsay, Versailles, Guimet, Rodin and the Reunion des Musees Nationaux (RMN).
Temporary exhibitions will also be organised annually in the Louvre Abu Dhabi and will be included in the programme of international exhibitions exchanged between major museums worldwide.
This agreement ensures French museum expertise will assist with the acquisition over the next decade of an Abu Dhabi art collection. This support will also facilitate the development of educational programmes and specialised art conferences that will be held in Abu Dhabi aimed at inspiring and developing the next generation of cultural leaders.
To celebrate the new cultural collaboration, the Louvre will host a floor of galleries dedicated to the late UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The commemorative galleries, on a floor of the Louvre’s Pavillon de Flore, will open within the next three years and house permanent displays of international work.
In addition, a multi-purpose art research centre in France – which will be the largest of its kind in the world – will also carry the name of the emirate. Restoration of art works will be carried out at the Abu Dhabi centre, which will also be used to train restoration professionals.
Abu Dhabi will also contribute to the restoration of the theatre in the Château de Fontainebleau - the largest royal palace in France. Designed by Hector Lefuel between 1853 and 1856, the theatre, in the west of the château’s Louis XV wing, will be named after Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The theatre still retains its original wall decorations, furniture and boxes as well as original stage machinery and the world’s largest collection of stage scenery from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Château de Fontainebleau was built in 1137 and was a favourite royal residence for centuries. Generations of royalty left their mark on the château, including Louis XIV whose additions left a distinct Versailles touch. In 1804 the château became an imperial residence in the reign of Napoleon Ist. It became a national museum in 1927.
“By choosing the Louvre, the emirate of Abu Dhabi not only sealed a partnership with the world’s most visited and well-known museum, but selected one which, from its very inception, had a vocation to reach out to the world, to the essence of mankind, through the contemplation of works of art,” said French President, Jacques Chirac.
“Having been originally created from ancient French Royal collections, and constantly enriched over more than two centuries, the Louvre has adhered, from its beginning, to a conviction that art is a universal messenger. With the Louvre, the emirate of Abu Dhabi pays tribute to this classical heritage and masterpieces of the past and in maintaining the momentum, it is committed to discovering a centuries old creation and demonstrating how it values heritage while spearheading the future.”
The Louvre Abu Dhabi will be a universal museum with exhibits encompassing a diversity of cultures.
“The Louvre Abu Dhabi will empower a new era of international cultural co-operation,” said Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Executive Council. “In the long-term the Louvre Abu Dhabi will become autonomous. It will be a national, regional and international asset allowing all to fully participate in an interconnected global cultural understanding.”
The accord, the first of its kind for the Louvre, was signed in Abu Dhabi today by Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and Tourism Development and Investment Company, and the French Minister for Culture and Communications Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, who headed a delegation to the UAE capital which included the President-Director of the Louvre Henri Loyrette as well as the Director of French Museums Francine Mariani-Ducray and museums curators.
“We have decided to create together a museum destined to foster cultural dialogue between East and West by exhibiting works of major importance from all the domains of the history of art, spanning all historic periods, including the contemporary, and all geographic regions,” said Minister de Vabres. “The Louvre Abu Dhabi will make use of the most innovative techniques in the field of museography, fulfilling, at all times, the quality criteria and scientific and museographic aims of the Louvre.
“France views this as a collective project which allows it to demonstrate to the world its unique expertise and know-how in the museum domain. To be co-ordinated by the Ministry of Culture and Communications, the French contribution will bring together the country’s leading national museums. Our aim is to jointly realise a major French museum of the 21st century that will be a scientific and cultural benchmark for museums worldwide.”
The 24,000 square metre Louvre Abu Dhabi, which will have 6,000 square metres of galleries devoted to permanent displays and 2,000 square metres for temporary exhibitions, is expected to open in 2012. The galleries will open to the public in successive phases.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi will exhibit major artifacts and works in archaeology, the fine arts and decorative arts from all historic periods, but pre-dominantly classical.
Designed by award-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, the designer behind the Musee du Quai Branley, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris and the Opera de Lyon, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will be housed in the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island, which is being transformed into a strategic international destination for cultural enlightenment.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of several iconic museums, including a performing arts centre, a Sheikh Zayed National Museum, a Guggenheim Abu Dhabi modern and contemporary art museum, a Maritime Museum, and a Biennale Park with 19 pavilions. Together they make up the world’s largest cultural destination.
Leading architects, including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Tado Andao and Jean Nouvel were commissioned for the concept designs for all the Cultural District’s components. “Together these museums deliver the most dramatic cultural unveiling ever conceived,” said Sheikh Sultan. “The Louvre Abu Dhabi will give the Cultural District destination even greater significance. It signals a new era of social awareness and will deliver to the nation and the region economic and human impact which will be profound and far-reaching.”
Saadiyat Island, said Sheikh Sultan, will play an integral role in realising the UAE capital’s ambition to be globally recognised as a world-class cultural destination.
Apart from the displays and productions to be shown and performed in the Cultural District, the architecture of Nouvel, Gehry, Hadid and Tadao, designed as 21st century icons, is expected to be a considerable cultural draw in its own right.
Designed as a seemingly floating dome structure, Nouvel’s concept has been described as an engineering feat. Its web-patterned dome allows the sun to filter through, reminiscent of rays passing through date palm fronds in an oasis.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s concept design is on show in an exhibition devoted to Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District which is open to the public from 10am until 10pm daily, in the UAE capital’s Emirates Palace Hotel.