Louvre Abu Dhabi, a Cultural Cornerstone Where East Meets West

Louvre Abu Dhabi, a Cultural Cornerstone Where East Meets West

The bounty is evident for many of the 13 French museums in the consortium. The Fontainebleau castle is lending a giant 16th-century bronze, the Apollon du Belvédère. In turn, it is receiving a check for about $5.8 million that it will invest in the restoration of its own Imperial Theater, which will be renamed for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates.

The Musée de Cluny, which is lending a jeweled 13th-century box, is funding half of an $8.8 million renovation of its reception area with money from the Louvre Abu Dhabi project. .

A small part of the Louvre Abu Dhabi is dedicated to contemporary and modern art. The rest focuses on telling the story of world histories and religions, with an emphasis on mixing works from different places.


Piet Mondrian’s 1944 “Composition With Blue, Red, Yellow and Black,” now in the permanent collection of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Mondrian/Holtzman Trust, via Louvre, Abu Dhabi

Beyond loans, the team of six curators have been scouting for art from private collections. They have acquired more than 600 works, including Piet Mondrian’s 1922 “Composition With Blue, Red, Yellow and Black,” bought in 2009 for $27.9 million from Christie’s auction of the collection of Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Another important purchase was a Renaissance painting of the Madonna and Child by Giovanni Bellini, which museum officials say demonstrates a commitment to highlighting works that reflect different religions.

“What is the Louvre Abu Dhabi? It’s a narrative of humankind from the beginning of knowledge, using art as a witness of the times,” said Jean-François Charnier, the project’s chief curator and scientific director for Agence France-Museums.


The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection includes Giovanni Bellini’s “Madonna and Child”
(1480 to 1485).

Louvre, Abu Dhabi

Some museum curators feared the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s buying spree could send global art prices surging. But Jean-Patrice Marandel, a curator for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, said the new museum “has not affected the market at all.”

“It does not have an image yet or a brand or a flavor,” he added.

A constant question for the new museum is how bold it will be. Ms. des Cars, who as former director of acquisitions had placed the winning bid for the Mondrian painting at an auction, insisted that cultural officials here have taken some “daring positions dealing with religion and nudity.”

Mr. Mubarak took pains in an interview to praise the beauty of a newly acquired Yemeni Torah. It will be exhibited with a seventh-century Quran and gothic Bible.

The museum commissioned a new piece by the American artist Jenny Holzer, who carved three stone walls with historic scripts in cuneiform, Arabic and French, drawing from a Sumerian “Creation Myth” and an essay on self-determination by Michel de Montaigne, the Renaissance philosopher.


Jenny Holzer, left, the American artist, carved three stone walls at the Louvre Abu Dhabi with historic scripts drawn from a Sumerian “Creation Myth” and an essay on self-determination. Hanna Tran, right, is project manager of Ms. Holzer’s studio.

Katarina Premfors for The New York Times

“I had to have the content reviewed, but no one said no,” she said, when asked if there were any restrictions. She hopes to create an app for museum visitors to pick their own creation myths to project on the stone walls.

Abu Dhabi officials are already preparing for the future. Mr. Mubarak predicted that the Louvre Abu Dhabi will have a domino effect and that the construction contract for the long-planned Guggenheim Abu Dhabi could be awarded next year. (A Guggenheim spokesman declined to comment.)

In the meantime, Jean-Luc Martinez, the director of the Louvre Museum, said the project has already had a dramatic effect in France. “Thanks to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, our museums were forced to work together after 50 years of development.”

“We have some egos,” he added, with Gallic understatement. “That’s a revolution in mentality.”

Correction: November 7, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the reason the labor specialist Andrew Ross was traveling to the United Arab Emirates when he barred from entering that country. The New York University professor was planning to do research there, but he did not have a relationship with N.Y.U.’s satellite campus in Abu Dhabi.

Correction: November 8, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the age of a Quran in the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection. It is from the seventh century, not the sixth.

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