Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Model of the future Louvre Abu Dhabi
General information
Type Art museum
Architectural style Modern
Location Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
Coordinates 24°32′01″N 54°23′54″E / 24.5336639°N 54.3984611°E / 24.5336639; 54.3984611
Completed Projected late 2016
Cost €83 million - €108 million
Design and construction
Architect Jean Nouvel
Structural engineer Buro Happold

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a planned museum, to be located in Abu Dhabi, UAE. On Tuesday 7 March 2007, the Louvre in Paris announced that a new Louvre museum would be completed by 2012 in Abu Dhabi,[1] with a revised estimate in early 2013 for a completion date of 2015. These both fell short of the current projection of an opening in late 2016.[2] This is part of a thirty-year agreement between the city of Abu Dhabi and the French government. The museum is to be located on the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, and will be approximately 24,000 square metres (260,000 sq ft) in size. The final cost of the construction is expected to be between €83 million and €108 million. In addition, US$525 million was paid by Abu Dhabi to be associated with the Louvre name, and an additional $747 million will be paid in exchange for art loans, special exhibitions and management advice.[3]

Artwork from around the world will be showcased at the museum, with particular focus placed upon bridging the gap between Eastern and Western art.[4] However, the construction of the museum has caused much controversy in the art world, as many objections have been raised as to the motives of the Louvre in this deal.


The establishment of this museum was approved by the French Parliament on 9 October 2007. The architect for the building will be Jean Nouvel and the engineers are Buro Happold.[5][6] Jean Nouvel also designed the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.

The museum will be part of a US$27 billion tourist and cultural development for Saadiyat Island, a complex which is planned to include three other museums, including a Guggenheim Museum[7] and the Zayed National Museum. According to the government sponsored website UAE Interact: "The French Museums Agency will operate in collaboration with the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), which is behind the transformation of Saadiyat Island. It will be chaired by French financier and member of the country's Académie des Beaux-Arts, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, publisher of the periodical Revue des Deux Mondes."[8] Bruno Maquart, the former Executive Director of Centre Georges Pompidou, will take the position of Executive Director."[9]

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.



Saadiyat Island's Cultural District plans to house the largest single cluster of world-class cultural assets.[11] In addition to the Louvre Abu Dhabi these are intended to include: Zayed National Museum, to be designed by United Kingdom-based architectural company Foster and Partners under the direction of Lord Norman Foster; the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi contemporary arts museum - the world's largest Guggenheim and the only museum to be located in the Middle East; a performing arts centre designed by Zaha Hadid; a maritime museum with concept design by Tadao Ando and a number of arts pavilions.[12]


A model of the museum's proposed design
The interior of the museum, showing the distinctive domed ceiling
The interior of the Louvre Abu Dhabi

The museum will be designed as a "seemingly floating dome structure"; its web-patterned dome allowing the sun to filter through. The overall effect is meant to represent "rays of sunlight passing through date palm fronds in an oasis."[13][14] The total area of the museum will be approximately 24,000 square metres (260,000 sq ft). The permanent collection will occupy 6,000 square metres (65,000 sq ft), and the temporary exhibitions will take place over 2,000 square metres (22,000 sq ft),[3][15]


Construction works at Louvre Abu Dhabi officially started on 26 May 2009. Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy inaugurated an exhibition titled, Talking Art: Louvre Abu Dhabi at the Gallery One of the Emirates Palace Hotel which includes 19 works of art bought over the last 18 months for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, as well as loans from the French national museums to mark the beginning of the construction work. Piling works In Louvre were to be completed by August 2010, with the piling and enabling works package awarded to the German specialized company (Bauer International FZE). The total of 4536 piles consisted of RC Piles and H-Piles and was completed on 3 August 2010.[16][17][18]

On 29 October 2011, Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC.), the project manager owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, announced it would delay establishing the museum. The company gave no new date.[19] According to the UAE newspapers Gulf News and The National, the delay could be explained by a review of the emirate's economic strategy.[20][21]

In January 2012 it was confirmed that the Louvre Abu Dhabi's new opening date would be 2015.[1]

Construction on the main phase of the museum began in early 2013 by a consortium headed by Arabtec, Constructora San José and Oger Abu Dhabi. This stage includes waterproofing and the two basement levels, along with four concrete pillars that will support the 7,000 tonne dome.[22]

Work on the construction of the gallery spaces and initial preparation for the dome began in the fourth quarter of 2013. On 5 December 2013, the first element of the museum's canopy was lifted into place.[23]

On 17 March 2014 TDIC announced the completion of the first permanent gallery structure to mark the first anniversary of the start of construction. At this time, it was claimed that a total of ten million man hours had been worked and 120,538 cubic meters of concrete used.[24]

On 22 September, the final super-sized element in the canopy was fitted in place, marking a significant milestone in the museum's construction phase. In October, The Tourism & Development Investment Company announced that the Louvre Abu Dhabi was more than 50 per cent complete.[25]

Brand and visual identity

The logo and typeface for the Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by Studio Philippe Apeloig, and is implemented in both Roman and Arabic script. Frutiger typeface was extended to create Frutiger LT to accommodate use across different languages.

Lebanese typographer, Kristyan Sarkis created the Arabic typeface, designed to reflect both the architecture of the building and the heat of the region.

The logo is completed by a broken line of shapes that reflect the shapes of the individual letters in the wordmark. Apeloig says the inspiration for both typeface and logo was the museum’s architectural elegance and lightness.[26]


Questions have been raised as to the nature of the artworks to be displayed at the museum. However, according to the National: "the type and nature of the exhibits planned for the Louvre Abu Dhabi have been affected to no extent by the fact the new museum would be in a Muslim country, said Mr. Loyrette."[27]

Subjects and themes have been freely discussed with our partners in Abu Dhabi and no request to avoid such subjects has been made. The exhibition policy will be set up regarding excellence and high-standard quality. As a new museum we hope the Louvre Abu Dhabi will be part of the international community.
Henri Loyrette[27]

It has been noted that the museum will showcase work from multiple French museums, including the Louvre, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée d'Orsay and Palace of Versailles. However, Donnedieu de Vabres, the French Culture Minister, stated at the announcement that the Paris Louvre "would not sell any of its 35,000-piece collection currently on display".

It will not be dedicated to occidental art but will show all kinds of artistic creations. It will set up a dialogue between west and east, between north and south. As such, art from the Middle East will be shown within the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Henri Loyrette[27]

In 2012, the Louvre Abu Dhabi started collecting photography, making its first acquisitions in the field, including works by Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, Roger Fenton and George Wilson Bridges. The museum also acquired a sculpture of a Bactrian princess dating from the third millennium BC, a pavement and fountain set from the early Ottoman period, as well as the paintings Breton Boys Wrestling (1888) by Paul Gauguin and The Subjugated Reader (1928) by René Magritte.[28]

Further details of the museum's collection on opening were revealed in October 2014, with a number of important works to be loaned under the agreement with Agence France-Muséums and the Musée du Louvre, including Leonardo Da Vinci's La Belle Ferronniere[29] and works by Henri Matisse, a self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh, Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon Crossing the Alps and Claude Monet's Gare Saint-Lazare,.[30]


The Louvre Abu Dhabi first started sharing its collection with the public through an exhibition entitled "Talking Art: Louvre Abu Dhabi," which opened in May 2009. The exhibition presented the first 19 acquisitions for the institution, including a Mamluk holy Koran from the 14th century, a 5th-century Fibula from Domagnano, a Virgin and Child by Bellini, and Mondrian’s Composition with blue, red, yellow and black from 1922.[31]

A second exhibition, Birth of a Museum, opened at the exhibition space Manarat Al Saadiyat in May 2013, ending in August that year. The first large-scale preview of the collection, it featured 130 works acquired by the government of Abu Dhabi for the permanent collection. They included a never-before seen work by Picasso, a Bronze Age terracotta statue from Cyprus, along with artifacts from Greece, Turkey, Japan and Syria. [32]

In May 2014, the Birth of a Museum exhibition, featuring works shown in Abu Dhabi and a number of new acquisitions opened at the Louvre in Paris. A number of new works were presented, including Chirisei Kyubiki by the Japanese artist Kazuo Shiraga and painted in 1960.[33]

Other programmes

The Louvre Abu Dhabi has also been working with the Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi to set up a master’s program for museum professionals to train them and help them respond to local needs.[31]



Louvre Abu Dhabi is an entirely separate museum from the Louvre in Paris, although the two are linked by a thirty-year branding and training agreement and the Paris Louvre is one of the 12 shareholders in Agence France-Muséums.[31] The thirty-year agreement, signed by French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres and Sheik Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, will prompt the construction of a Louvre museum on Saadiyat Island, near central Abu Dhabi, in exchange for US$1.3 billion.[15] The contract prohibits the creation of any similar operation with the name of the Louvre in any of the other emirates of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, or Iraq.[34] French President Jacques Chirac praised the museum deal with Abu Dhabi, saying it reflects "a certain idea of the world" in which each party to the accord, "proud of its roots and of its identity, is conscious of the equal dignity of all cultures."[35][36]


US$525 million was paid by Abu Dhabi to be associated with the Louvre name, and an additional $747 million in exchange for art loans, special exhibitions and management advice.[3] Arabtec is leading a consortium that is building the museum under a $653 million contract awarded early in 2013.

Cost estimates

US$525 million was paid by the city of Abu Dhabi for the use of the Louvre brand name, with US$195 million payable within a month.[37] In addition to this, US$247 million will be paid for the loan of artworks from the Louvre over a ten-year period, with a total of between two hundred and three hundred artworks expected. The Parisian Louvre will also be providing management advice to its Middle Eastern counterpart, at a cost of US$214.5 million. An additional US$253.5 million will be paid for various special exhibitions. A total of four exhibitions will be hosted per year over a period of fifteen years.[3] The city of Abu Dhabi will also make a direct donation of US$32.5 million to the Louvre to refurbish a wing of the Pavillon de Flore for the display of international art.


The deal has sparked much controversy in both artistic and academic circles. According to Maymanah Farhat, "the controversy that has surfaced in France is led by art historian Didier Rykner, one of the most outspoken critics of the French–Emirati deal."[38] A petition against the deal, signed by 4,650 museum experts, archaeologists and art historians, has insisted that "museums are not for sale."[39][40] The Louvre has been accused of behaving "like a corporation with a clearly-defined strategy: profit maximization."[41] In the words of Didier Rykner:

We have lost a battle, but the combat continues.
Didier Rykner

Human rights abuse controversies

In April 2011, over 120 international artists urged a boycott of both the Louvre and Guggenheim museums over concerns regarding the abuse and exploitation of construction workers employed to develop the complex.[42] In December 2013, The Guardian reported that conditions for the workers at the construction sites amount to modern-day slavery.[43]


According to the New York Times, "Henri Loyrette, the president and director of the Louvre, has responded to growing criticism of the museum’s new policy of establishing footholds abroad, arguing that the Louvre cannot ignore the 'internationalization' of museums."[44] He had the following to say in the museum's defence:

It's a fair fee for the concession of the name. This tutelary role deserves reward. It's normal.
Henri Loyrette
We're not selling the French legacy and heritage. We want this culture to radiate to parts of the world that value it. We're proud that Abu Dhabi wants to bring the Louvre here. We're not here to transform culture into a consumer product.
Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres[45]

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi said:

This is a major achievement in Abu Dhabi's vision to become a world-class destination bridging global cultures. This accord further strengthens international dialogue, which will embrace all cultures. This initiative is a unique milestone in international cooperation and bilateral relations and a tribute to the longstanding and friendly ties our two nations have enjoyed. It also creates an enriching environment to be treasured by and to educate generations to come.

See also


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  2. "Opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi pushed back to 2016". The National (Abu Dhabi). 2015-10-04. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
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  16. Vogel, Carol (26 May 2009). "Abu Dhabi Gets a Sampler of World Art". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
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  19. Showcase projects yield to more urgent needs, Gulf News, 10 November 2011
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