The Dome of Wonders – inside the architectural marvel and masterpieces of Louvre Abu Dhabi

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By Ebenezer Chike Adjei NJOKU

What do the Mona Lisa, the Coronation of Napoleon, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace have in common? Not only are they some of the most important creative pieces of art ever created, and have captured the imaginations of many for centuries, but they, and similar, call the Louvre — the largest art museum on earth, their home.

What if that magic can be exactly replicated outside Paris? Impossible, you say? That is exactly what the Louvre Abu Dhabi set out to achieve and is evidently on course to exceed at the heart of the ambitious Saadiyat Cultural District (SCD).

The Louvre Abu Dhabi has been years in the making. In March 2007, the UAE and France embarked on a cultural partnership that merged the Emirate’s visionary cultural progression with the European behemoth’s unparalleled expertise in art and museum curation.

The result is the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a museum that embodies the dynamic contemporary the Emirates while celebrating its rich multicultural heritage.

Wonders within a Wonder

Before you arrive at the first foray of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which is unsurprisingly decked with a Mona Lisa, visitors are enchanted by the structure which houses the museum-city.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is nestled within the Dome – a metal marvel inspired by regional architectural tradition. Imagine a top hemisphere, that is, the top half of a sphere made out of metal and cut such that it creates 7,850 ‘stars’ in eight layers, providing a mesmerising ‘rain of light’ effect reminiscent of sunlight filtering through palm trees.

Its magnificence is further enhanced by the water which surrounds the edifice and gives the impression that the Dome, and consequently, the museum is floating.

Within, the Louvre Abu Dhabi offers a unique thematic and chronological journey through human history, with galleries dedicated to various eras and themes. Visitors are taken through the Ancient Worlds, spanning from 10,000 BCE to 500 CE, where they encounter artefacts from the first great powers that emerged in the fertile valleys of the Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, Indus, and Yellow rivers. Noteworthy pieces include the statue of Gudea, prince of Lagash; the colossal figure of Ramesses II, the Egyptian pharaoh; the enigmatic Greek sphinx, the serene head of Buddha and the Oba of the Benin Kingdom.

Since opening seven years ago, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has grown from less than 1,000 pieces of art to over 6,000, sourced from all over the world…

The museum continues its narrative through the Early Modern Times, First Globalisation, and Multiple Modernities, showcasing how interconnected our world has become through art, trade, and cultural exchange. The arrangement is such that it encourages visitors to reflect on the universal themes that bind humanity together.

The architectural brilliance of Louvre Abu Dhabi is complemented by its environmental consciousness. The dome’s Design not only creates a captivating visual experience but also provides natural cooling of up to six degrees lower than outside, thus reducing energy consumption.

The museum’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its Silver LEED status and Three Pearl Estidama Design Rating, which recognise its efficient use of passive cooling, water, and energy conservation. In addition, the museum pays attention to two crucial elements – technology and children. Throughout the galleries, and especially at the exhibition, the museum utilises an array of interactive technology to make the experience more immersive for visitors.

In May 2024, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Children’s Museum launched its latest exhibition, “Picturing the Cosmos,” an interstellar journey designed for young explorers. This immersive, family-friendly exhibit spans three floors and blends art with interactive games, offering an unforgettable adventure through space.

Visitors embark on a Space Mission, discovering how artists from diverse backgrounds have been inspired by the cosmos. The exhibition unfolds through four themes: Contemplate, Narrate, Measure, and Explore, providing a comprehensive and engaging exploration of humanity’s fascination with the universe.

A universal museum at the ‘bridge’ of civilisation

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s mission is to unite different cultures and shine a light on the shared stories of human creativity. Its galleries are arranged not by geography but by fostering respect, curiosity, learning, and self-reflection. The museum’s foundation as a collaboration between two distinct cultures is reflected in its stunning architecture, which marries French design, Arabic heritage and universal creativity.

“The Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first asset to come to life, is a universal museum over seven years old. It takes visitors on a thematic voyage through the history of art, connecting humanity through themes like motherhood, religion, and appreciation.

Africa is integral to our story and every museum’s story, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Africa, especially places like Ghana and Nigeria, is reclaiming its narrative, helping the world understand its true history and creativity. This is reflected in our museums, showcasing global empires side by side, including the kingdoms of Benin [and Ashanti] and the kings and queens of Africa alongside other regions,” says His Excellency, Al Mubarak, the Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).

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