As we approached this building that seems to float on water in the Saadiyat island in Abu Dhabi, I realized that I was very excited to be visiting the Louvre. I had wandered around the original one in Paris, many years ago and enjoyed every single moment. The UAE government has paid France $525 million to use the name Louvre! This is touted to be the largest Art museum at 8000 square metres, in the Arab peninsula.
Jean Nouvell who is the architect of this magnificent building, has created quite the masterpiece. The building is a big dome (180 metres in diameter) with a web patterned roof – an intricate webbing of 7,850 star shapes in 8 layers at different angles. The sun filters through – supposed to signify rays of sunlight filtering through palm fronds in an oasis. The effect in some parts is quite exhilarating!
On display is the Salvator Mundi – a painting of Christ in a Renaissance dress, by Leonardo da Vinci. Bought for a whopping $450.3 m, it’s the most expensive painting ever sold and a wonder to behold. Several other paintings include La Belle Ferronniere by Leonardo da Vinci, Self Potrait by Vincent Van Gogh, Virgin and Child by Giovanni Bellini, Game of Bezique by Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte, an oil on canvas Napolean Bonaparte crossing the Alps by French artist Jacques-Louis David, Horses of the Sun by Gilles Guerin, La Gare Saint Lazare by Claude Monet, Arrangement in Grey and Black or Whistler’s Mother by James McNeill Whistler, the Subjugated Reader by Rene Magritte amongst numerous others. Just thinking that this building houses paintings by da Vinci, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, Bellini makes you feel humbled! It’s a bit of a high really!
A towering Rameses II statue, a medieval statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, Rodin’s Walking Man on a Column, an ancient Egyptian status of Goddess Isis nursing Horus, Statue of Gudea, Bactrian Princess, a superb bust of Emperor Constantine, standing statue of Bodhisattva from Gandhara to a bronze statue of Shiva, the funeral set of Princess Henuttawy – you can gaze on them all! You must also see Ai Wei Wei’s absolutely fantastic Fountain of Light.
In glass cabinets on display are some rare ancient texts – the Book of Hours which is a late 15th century book, the Quran, Korah, Bible and sacred Sutra scrolls sit next to each other in perfect harmony.
For a museum buff like me, this was virtual nirvana. I didn’t have time to stop and mull and absorb as I had a flight to catch – but I intend going back there and spending a longer time. I would hazard at least 5 hours at a minimum is required to do this museum justice. You can rest your tired legs and have a refreshing Yuzu lemongrass mocktail with a Wagyu burger at the museum café. I’m not going to explain what they are – go and try it! It has a great outdoor seating area overlooking the sea and also an inside space. Take your pick.
The museum is open Saturday to Wednesday from 10:00am – 8:00pm, on Thursday and Fridays from 10:00am – 11:00pm. The museum is closed on Mondays. Entry free is AED 65 and AED 21 for the Headpieces which explain each exhibit in detail.
I walked through over 23 galleries and it was such a super experience. This museum celebrates art and the artists who created them!
Book your tour with United World. Nobody does it better!
Mavis Mendonca Smith