With the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration now over, Selections asked regional art professionals to give us their views on one of the most high-profile museums to open its doors in recent years

After almost a week of official activities, led by speeches from the President of France Emmanuel Macron and the UAE’s leaders, as well as an extravagant firework display and a further week of public programming, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is well and truly open to the public.

But what does it mean for the world of art? Is the museum just an example of what extreme wealth can buy or is it an institution that will have a deep and lasting impact on generations to come?

Art professionals, curators, dealers and gallery owners came from far and wide to witness this historic moment and the overwhelming consensus was that this museum represents a serious and important addition to our global cultural landscape.
Basel Dalloul, the managing director of Lebanon’s Dalloul Art Foundation, said his first reaction when walking into the Louvre Abu Dhabi was amazement, adding that it was unlike any other museum in the world.

“The choice to display objects from across cultures but from the same period is unique from a museological point of view,” he noted. “I think the Louvre Abu Dhabi is pioneering the way museology will evolve. Also, it’s more akin to the way the human mind thinks and learns and is much more relevant in this mobile society and globalised world that we live in today.”

Dalloul believes the most important thing about the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the small moments created throughout the curatorial process. “To see a Saloua Rouda Choucair next to an Alexander Calder was really special,” he added.

Harry Hutchison, the director of Aicon Gallery in New York, who was in town for Abu Dhabi Art, also had a particular interest in the gallery hall that housed 20th century art. Aicon Gallery placed the S.H. Raza, which is currently hanging next to a Mark Rothko and a Josef Albers, into the museum’s permanent collection. All three artists show an interest in colour block and line. Hutchison said: “The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a phenomenal and totally unique museum that has redefined what it is to be a museum. I am astounded at the monumental efforts that it has taken to get to the finishing line with multiple governments, organisations, architects, museum specialists and artists all giving 100% to the cause, and it shows.”

He added that the ‘wow’ factor of Jean Nouvel’s building was “not to be underestimated”. “Everyone, not only in the UAE, but any serious art lover in the world, should make the pilgrimage to Saadiyat Island,” he concluded.

Viewers closer to home were equally impressed. William Lawrie, the co-director of Dubai’s Lawrie Shabibi Gallery, said that seeing art history presented in a horizontal, rather than vertical way took some getting used to at first, but that he left with a huge smile on his face.

“As a lifetime universal museum enthusiast, I appreciated the fact that the Louvre Abu Dhabi used minimal glass and let objects breathe,” he commented. “Although it took me some time to get into the curation, I felt the museum revealed itself more and more and by the end, it made perfect sense. Each room was filled with fabulous works and my overall reaction was that it is a fabulous place.”

Featured image: Louvre Abu Dhabi, Germination by Giuseppe Penone © Louvre Abu Dhabi, photography Roland Halbe.

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, Letters From The Past #43 pages 52-55.