Louvre Abu Dhabi has announced approximately 300 loans to come from major French institutions for its opening year, which will complement the museum’s growing collection and universal narrative.
The loans include Leonardo da Vinci’s Portrait of an Unknown Woman (circa 1495), also known as La Belle Ferronnière, which is being loaned by the Musée du Louvre, Edouard Manet’s The Fife Player (1866), Claude Monet’s The Saint-Lazare Station (1877) to be loaned by Musée d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, a rare salt cellar in ivory from the Benin Kingdom, from Musée du quai Branly and Henri Matisse’s Still Life with Magnolia (1941) from Centre Pompidou.
HE Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), the organisation with the mandate for Louvre Abu Dhabi said: “These outstanding loans from our French partners represent the collaboration and exchange, symbolic of Louvre Abu Dhabi and its progress to date. This will be the first time many of these works will travel to Abu Dhabi or even the Middle East, and are a rare opportunity to see important art from French museums in dialogue with the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection. Ultimately, we hope to offer visitors a unique experience from a new perspective that underlines the universal spirit of the entire project.”
Ms. Fleur Pellerin, French Minister of Culture and Communication, declared that “the announcement of the loans from French museums foreseen in the framework of the intergovernmental agreement signed between the United Arab Emirates and France in 2007 for the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi represents a major step in this great project. It is an acknowledgement of both the extraordinary richness of our national collections and the expertise of our museums. These masterpieces loaned by the 13 partner French museums and public institutions, will implement a new dialogue between different world cultures and civilisations, in in a spirit of universalism that France is proud to promote throughout the world.”
The selection was overseen by TCA Abu Dhabi, Agence France-Muséums (AFM) and the lending museums in line with the museum’s scientific and cultural programme. French institutions which will loan works for the opening year include Musée du Louvre; Musée d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie; Centre Pompidou; Musée du quai Branly; Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet; Château de Versailles; Musée Rodin; Bibliothèque nationale de France; Musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen Âge; Cité de la Céramique Sèvres; Musée des Arts décoratifs; Musée d’archéologie nationale de St Germain en Laye and Château de Fontainebleau. Most of these are stakeholders of AFM, the organisation established for the realisation of Louvre Abu Dhabi. In addition to the loan of art works, its role includes the definition of the museum’s scientific and cultural programme, assistance with project management including visitor policies and most importantly knowledge transfer and the training of UAE nationals in the field of museums, including internships in the French museums that comprise AFM.
The number of works loaned by French institutions will decrease over a 10-year period as Louvre Abu Dhabi continues to build up its collection. The works will be on show from three months to two years, depending largely on the narrative, the conservation and the preservation requirements of each piece. Louvre Abu Dhabi will follow the highest international standards and requirements for transport, presentation and conservation of artworks.
Born of an intergovernmental agreement between Abu Dhabi and France in 2007, Louvre Abu Dhabi will display artworks and objects of historical, cultural and sociological significance – from prehistory to the contemporary. An innovative vision, the narrative will explore the relations between art traditions from a global perspective, decompartimentilasing collections and offering viewpoints from various cultures.
The announcement of loans from French institutions follows the success of two major exhibitions, Birth of a Museum in 2013 in Abu Dhabi and Naissance d’un musée in Paris (2 May – 28 July 2014) at Musée du Louvre, showcasing major pieces from Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection. Amongst the works on display were one of the finest examples of a standing Bactrian Princess from the end of the 3rd millennium BCE, a Middle-Eastern gold bracelet with lion heads, a painting by Osman Hamdy Bey from 1878, titled A Young Emir Studying and Paul Gauguin’s painting Children Wrestling, 1888. Alongside these, modern and contemporary artworks on show included Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow, and Black by Piet Mondrian that was part of the former Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection, an Alexander Calder mobile influenced by Mondrian and Untitled I–IX, a series of nine canvases by late American painter Cy Twombly.
Additional public programmes prior to the museum’s opening have included exhibitions, performances and panel discussions, and the fourth edition of the Louvre Abu Dhabi: Talking Art Series, will begin in October.
The construction of the museum is progressing rapidly, and the iconic dome is almost complete and placed into position on the site. A one to one mockup of one of the museums’ galleries has been completed to illustrate its materials and the possible modes of display. With a built up area of 64,000 square metres, Louvre Abu Dhabi is conceived as a complex of pavilions, plazas, alleyways and canals, evoking the image of a city floating on the sea. Hovering over the complex will be a vast, shallow dome - some 180 metres in diameter - perforated with interlaced patterns so that a magical, diffused light reminiscent of the shadows of palm trees will filter through.