It’s all happening in ‘middle Earth’
Not only did we report yesterday on a new MB&F M.A.D. Gallery in Dubai showing that Commercial Art appreciation is rising in the region but the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi last November shows that Aesthetic Art & Culture is on the rise again in the Middle East.
The famous French institution opened a branch of the Louvre in the complex for the “planned” Guggenheim Museum and the Zayed National Museum on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, considered to be the future cultural centre of the United Arab Emirates.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a complete design by Jean Nouvel, inside and outside. The interior consist of walls reflecting the light of the skies to recreate the lights of ancient Arab souks.
A planned ‘museum city’, comprising 55 individual buildings and including 23 galleries takes references from traditional Emirati architecture; the complex is a series of simple white structures harking to the low-lying villages common to the region.
The centrepiece is a dominating dome — 180 meters in diameter — that appears to float above the museum walls. Composed of complex geometric structures to form 7,850 ‘stars’, repeated in different sizes and angles within eight separate layers of aluminium and steel mesh, the dome allows sunlight to filter through the perforations to create the ‘Rain of Light’ effect.
This effect evokes the reflections of lapping waters on the Persian Gulf into its outer corridors, allowing individual beams of light through the roof to strike the surface and cast dancing reflections across the white walls.
At night, light inside pours out like tiny little stars from the dome against the city skyline.
“I imagine this metaphor of the sky, cosmic, cosmographic, with a random system like the stars itself,” Nouvel said. “I imagine that with not a lot of lighting, just a little bit to create a kind of rain of light.”
Within the Louvre Abu Dhabi, more than 600 piece of art from Van Gogh to Da Vinci to Manet to Cezanne and the Arab world will be exhibited.
There will be a special section or “museum for children” so they are not exposed to portrayals of nudity.
A woman poses in front of part of a series of nine panels titled “Untitled I-IX”.
Business of Art
Abu Dhabi agreed to pay France $525 million for the use of the “Louvre” brand name until 2037, plus another $750 million to hire French managers to look after 300 loaned works of art, including an 1887 self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘La Belle Ferronniere’, from the Louvre Paris and 15 other French cultural institutions such as the Pompidou Centre and the Musée d’Orsay.
The construction of the museum cost another $650 million bringing the total cost to $2 billion.
As part of the deal, a centre at Paris’ Louvre is named after the late UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Meanwhile, Louvre Abu Dhabi will build up its own collection. The curator team has taken on this task backed by a budget supported by 6% of global oil reserves. The recent mega-buy that created palpitations in the art world was Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (“Saviour of the World”, circa 1500), purchased at auction for US$450 million only four days after the museum opened last November; the most expensive painting ever sold.
Other significant works purchased include a Mondrian painting, bought at auction for US$28 million from the collection of Yves St Laurent and Pierre Bergé, and ‘Madonna and Child’ by Renaissance artist Giovanni Bellini.
Video: Louvre Abu Dhabi
Don’t forget that the largest attractions in Abu Dhabi were ‘Ferrari World’ and the F1 Grand Prix Race. So, this concentration of Art & Culture on Saadiyat Island is quite remarkable. If “The true cost of luxury is the choice that it affords.”, then this is what $2 billion can afford.
With regional political uncertainty and downtrend in oil prices since the contracts were signed in 2007, the government reigned back on cashflow, so the Guggenheim Museum and the Zayed National Museum are currently “on hold”. Saadiyat Island is looking pretty lonely with only Louvre Abu Dhabi and the existing Manarat Al Saadiyat cultural centre in action. Other planned projects like the Zaha Hadid-designed performing arts centre and a maritime museum by Tadao Ando, may not ever be built……
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He was also CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).