LOUVRE Abu Dhabi


WEBSITE: www.louvreabudhabi.ae
LOCATION: Saadiyat Cultural District, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
NEAREST AIRPORTS: Abu Dhabi International Airport, 30mins drive or Dubai International Airport 1hr 30mins drive (recommended)


A feat of engineering and international diplomacy, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will capture your senses and stimulate your imagination. It is an exciting new world of creativity, where space and budget seem limitless. Let’s see how far it can go.

The first to open of the eight planned museums in the Saadiyat Cultural District, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is still developing its collection while displaying works on loan from the Paris museum. Arranged chronologically (rather than by region or movement) the display aims to champion the cultural achievements of mankind.

It has received some criticism that the Middle East is trying to buy culture. But what I saw was a positive display of beautiful artefacts and objects – and the potential for more. It is true that the display is a bit sparse in places but I have full faith that the collection will soon catch up. It already has some works from Ai Weiwei, Rothko, Manet and Pollock at the end of a trail that starts with pre-historical artefacts and charts the rise of world religions, developments in sculpture and painting around the globe, the rise and fall of power, all in the aim to unpack the common connections throughout humanity.

And the UAE mean business. The building cost almost a £1 billion. Designed by Jean Nouvel I would be pushed to think of a more beautiful, well considered, or breathtaking building. Nouvel thought of it all – the interiors, how comfortable you will be moving around the spaces, how the art will look, how the building relates to its surroundings – and brings all this together in a white city shaded by a giant dome which floats above, protecting from the sun. I spent the whole day enjoying the inside/outside feeling while looking at the art and contemplating the sea.

The district will soon be joined by a further museum partnership with the Guggenheim, the building designed by Frank Gehry, a Zaha Hadid performing arts centre, and a Sheik Zayed National Museum by Foster + Partners. This will create a museum island or district with a cluster of buildings done by our most prominent architects. To judge by what has been done to date, it will be absolute and unadulterated wow factor all round.

I would arrive into Dubai and enjoy the high rise architecture before heading to the new Louvre. It sets the scene, and the contrast of the sky scrapers vs. the low slung hovering dome which, as you approach across the sands, is breathtaking. The linking highway (a straight drive with no turnings for the full hour and a half) boasts a ‘Highway Gallery’ with billboards advertising the works you will see in the museum and invite visitors to tune in to the radio to hear about the works, which is fun.