Floating like an astrolabe on the shores of the United Arab Emirates, The Louvre Abu Dhabi presents a universal conception of art and culture. Located in the developing cultural precinct Saadiyat Island, or “Island of Happiness”, the museum challenges tradition and presents a new vision of art.
The curation brings objects from different cultures and time periods together to explore common themes - demonstrating a shared vision of the human experience.
University of Melbourne art historian Associate Professor Christopher Marshall visited the newly opened museum to uncover its treasures and give us our very own guided tour of his favourite objects.
Essential to all life, water is one of the most basic human needs. Three water jugs from different cultures and times are shown together to celebrate our relationship with water.
2. Animal guardians
Western art is not prioritised in the Louvre Abu Dhabi but instead positioned as one part of a global narrative. The combination of the classical object from Greece with an object from ancient China dynamically links the themes of the spiritual power of animals.
The celebration of motherhood on a global scale. This cabinet directly compares the powerful depiction of motherhood from ancient Egypt to 14th century France to the more recent Congo - demonstrating the power and universality of the mother figure.
4. Ancient Modernism
Standing like a guardian in the middle of the museum is one of the oldest objects in the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a Neolithic statue which echoes modernist sculpture, bringing the ancient world to life.
Two stone tomb lids, side by side. One has a face carved in Egyptian style, the other a face carved in the Greek style. An incredible juxtaposition speaking to the interaction of cultures and the markers of life passing in the ancient world.
6. The good life
For some, life was sweet under the Roman Empire. Relics from a Tunisian villa, these mosaics feature plump cupids rising on the back of fish. The motif testifies to the vitality and diversity of Roman art as it spread across the Mediterranean.
7. The new world
Dutch painter Frans Post accompanied one of the first Dutch merchant expeditions to 17th century Brazil. His painting is a record of the strange world he found. The painting depicts creatures and objects that would have been fascinating and exotic to European eyes.
Extending the world beyond the boundaries of Europe – early modern European cultures were fascinated with exotica and collected objects from around the world to bring back the continent.
9. The block buster
An opulent depiction of Bonaparte at the height of his power. The painting recalls the rise and fall of empires, the rise and fall of superpowers. The familiarity of David’s painting is offset by its surreal location in the Persian Gulf.
10. The Abu Dhabi Mona Lisa
An enigmatic portrait of a young Milanese courtesan by Da Vinci is a selfie-worthy item in the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection and one of the big-name additions to the museum. The portrait will be joined by another Da Vinci, the most expensive painting in the world, Salvator Mundi, soon to arrive in Abu Dhabi on extended loan.
11. Australia on the global stage
A large-scale painting by contemporary Australian Indigenous artist Ningura Napurrula brings the curation from the earliest prehistory to sharp contemporaneity.
The Faculty of Arts offers an overseas study tour in March 2018 ‘Desert Minimalism to the new Louvre’ charting the phenomenal rise of art and museum cultural development in the United Arab Emirates and State of Qatar.
Banner image: Louvre Abu Dhabi/Supplied.