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Louvre Abu Dhabi’s new cultural season is here

Why artsy types belong in the capital circa now.

Three international exhibitions, the launch of a new annual exhibition and art prize, and a popular ongoing exhibition at the Children’s Museum accompanied by a rich programme catering to the public – it’s all happening here and now at Louvre Abu Dhabi. The new season explores the many geographic paths and singular voices that have created significant artistic and cultural connections across the globe, while celebrating not one but two milestones: the museum’s fourth anniversary and the UAE’s 50th National Day.

Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, says: “As the UAE welcomes the world over the coming months, Louvre Abu Dhabi will truly offer something for everyone in this upcoming season of exhibitions, events and programming. New international exhibitions, new acquisitions and masterpieces on loan will join a display of works from each of the seven emirates. In this extraordinary jubilee year, we remain resilient and deeply rooted in our community, committed to our mission of telling stories of cultural connections throughout this season, beginning with Dragon & Phoenix.” Interested? Read on.


An exceptional new exhibition entitled Dragon and Phoenix: Centuries of Exchange between Chinese and Islamic Worlds explores – you guessed it – the artistic and cultural exchanges between China and the Islamic world. Running until 12 February 2022, it looks back at this history of mutual exchange and fascination, unfolding over five chapters and featuring immersive scenography chronicling the 8th-18th centuries. The Islamic world consistently turned its gaze towards China, the model for technical advances and objects of beauty. In contrast, the Islamic world was a supplier of luxury objects – particularly those made of glass – and an important source of inspiration for China. The primacy of Chinese artistic production would only be rivalled when an alternative model with a radically different aesthetic captured the attention of the Islamic world: that of Europe.

new cultural season

Through a joint collaboration with leading Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille, Louvre Abu Dhabi has established an annual exhibition and art prize for contemporary artists. The inaugural exhibition Louvre Abu Dhabi Art Here 2021 will feature the proposals of all shortlisted, UAE-based artists from 18 November to 27 March 2022 in the Forum, a space of interaction and exchange dedicated to contemporary art. From these shortlisted artists, one will be selected as the winner of the Richard Mille Art Prize and awarded $50,000. This collaboration creates a significant platform for artists in the region, as well as an expansion of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s display of and engagement with contemporary art.

Come 2022, Versailles and the World will kick off on 26 January, showcasing the story of Versailles as a central diplomatic instrument that solidified the prowess of the French royal court and served as the stage for its fascination with various civilisations in a rapidly globalising world. This exhibition is curated by Hélène Delalex (Curator, Furniture and Decorative Arts) and Bertrand Rondot (Chief Curator, Furniture and Decorative Arts) at Musée des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. Global cultures and aesthetics found themselves represented at Versailles as it transformed into a diplomatic hub receiving foreign dignitaries from all around the world, with these visits coming to life at this exhibition through an array of objects ranging from Japanese lacquerware to wallpapers and porcelain.

Further down the line, Stories of Paper will delve into a medium that is crucial to artistic production, documentation, and communication, tracing the origins of paper in all its forms – from ancient China and the Islamic world to contemporary global societies. At a time when the use and purpose of paper is being questioned in an increasingly digital world, this exhibition from April to July 2022 will seek to define paper as part of a global, collective human heritage. Lastly, let’s not forget the ongoing Emotions! exhibition, which continues to delight little ones at Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Children’s Museum. Here, children and families can navigate three floors of interactive activities, artworks and games to explore four key emotions: joy, sadness, fear and anger. Bonus: access to both the museum and the exhibition is free to all children under 18.

New Loans & Acquisitions

Coinciding with the museum’s anniversary, 59 new loans and 56 new acquisitions will go on view across the galleries of Louvre Abu Dhabi. Works on loan come from institutions within the France Muséums network, along with regional and local partners. These artworks will be installed among those in its permanent collection, creating new narratives and stories of cultural connections between artworks in formal and thematic dialogues. In celebration of the UAE’s 50th National Day, Louvre Abu Dhabi will also display artworks from each of the seven emirates, including loans from national museums and institutions such as Dubai Municipality and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

Returning visitors to the museum will be greeted by an entirely new pairing of works upon entry – the bronze sculpture The Words I Love Most by Egyptian artist Ghada Amer (2012), on loan from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in dialogue with the new acquisition Series of eight allegories attributed to Jacob de Backer (Antwerp, active between 1571 and 1585). Both works explore the infinite possibilities of word and image in expressing complex human and societal values such as love, charity and hope. These are universal, moral guideposts that, although represented differently, continue to connect civilisations across time and geographies.

new cultural season

Events and Workshops

As part of its Research Programme, Louvre Abu Dhabi is presenting a talk series in collaboration with Cartier at the Women’s Pavilion at EXPO 2020 Dubai, using artworks from the museum’s collection to initiate discussions on landmark moments in women’s history. To celebrate the nation’s jubilee, December will see the museum’s iconic dome transformed into an audio-visual installation reflecting 50 years of the UAE, including a roller-skating rink for an event in collaboration with Madrollers, open to children in the afternoon and young people in the evening. The event will consist of dynamic, digital wall-mapping showcasing images and videos of the UAE over the past five decades, alongside a DJ playing nostalgic Emirati tunes.

Aspiring artists, meanwhile, can enjoy Drawing at the Museum each week to explore artworks, develop sketching skills and learn about the different aspects of drawing. Participants end each visit by participating in a group discussion to critically reflect, share insights and discuss ideas. Simultaneously, the museum’s #MakeandPlay initiative will continue in the form of online videos and drop-in sessions at the museum. The latter are linked to the museum artworks, allowing participants to create an original flipbook, a helmet, a mask, a costume, or a paper horse in four activity stations. All the materials are provided, and museum educators are even on-hand to support for a nominal fee. And if all that creative excitement works up an appetite, the newly renovated Aptitude Café has officially reopened, making it the perfect place to enjoy a bite and unobstructed views of the Abu Dhabi skyline after your culture quest. Win-win.

new cultural season

GO: Visit www.louvreabudhabi.ae for more information.

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Samia Qaiyum
A textbook third culture kid with a perpetual thirst for adventure, Samia Qaiyum specialises in travel and culture, having lived in five countries and travelled to 34 others – just don't ask her to define the word 'home'.

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