Louvre Abu Dhabi building was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel

As more than 7 thousand stars that make up the dome of the Louvre Abu Dhabi are a modest amount compared to the figures surrounding the museum that recently opened in the United Arab Emirates: more than 1 billion dollars were spent between construction (US$ 108 million), the amount paid to the French government for the use of the Louvre brand for 30 years (US$525 million) and the amount paid to France for the loan of 300 works (US$750 million).

However, if the $1,3 billion total seems high, it becomes modest near the $450 million paid for the Salvator Mundi painting, attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, sold at Christie's New York auction last November. . The controversial work, as its restoration made it practically a new painting, was acquired by the Abu Dhabi department of culture and tourism for the local Louvre. In short: the billionaire astronomical sum for the construction of the 97 thousand m2 is small when compared to the value of just one work purchased for him. The original Louvre in Paris has a total area of ​​72 m2.

Superlatives, however, are common in the UAE and the Louvre is no exception. The design by French architect Jean Nouvel for the museum is marked by a dome measuring 180 meters in diameter, almost the length of two football fields, since officially the length of a field is 105 meters. The dome is made up of 7.850 intersecting stars and creates a sheltered environment with lights and shadows projected onto 26 independent buildings. The feeling, with that, is of being in a village in the desert protected by a big cloud. The total exhibition area reaches 8,6 thousand m2, with 6,4 thousand m2 of them are used for the permanent exhibition.

Public from the United Arab Emirates visit the museum. Photo: Marc Domage

For the construction of the museum on a landfill, 503 thousand cubic meters of sand drained from the sea were used, covering an area that is about 10% of the Aterro do Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro, with its 1,2 million m2.

The numbers are necessary to give a little bit of the extraordinary dimension of this cultural oasis in the middle of the desert of the United Arab Emirates, but unlike some projects in the region, which shine a lot but in the end become mere pastiches of decadent Western society, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has commendable merits.

Universal Museum

“The construction of the museum took place along with its museological conception, architects and curators thought together, from the beginning, how to organize such an institution in the 21st century,” Souraya Noujaim, executive director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, told a group of journalists. , last March, which included ARTE!Brasileiros. Chosen for the role last February, Noujaim had been working on the project for four years on the French side of the binational agreement, being a curator for Islamic art at the French Museum Agency.

The path in the permanent exhibition is chronological, with the exception of the first room, called O Grande Pátio, where works from different periods are grouped by themes. Among the highlights are three pieces dealing with motherhood: an Egyptian sculpture of the goddess Iris with her son Horus (800 – 400 BC), an ivory image of the Virgin with Jesus (1320 – 1330) and a wooden piece from the Republic of Congo. of Phemba (19th century), the figure of motherhood of the Yombe people.

The trio well represents the concept of the Louvre Abu Dhabi as a “universal museum”, as it presents how motherhood was represented in Egyptian civilization centuries before Christ, passing through Catholic religiosity and reaching the African culture of the Congo region.

“To demonstrate what humanity has in common, Louvre Abu Dhabi uses the path of universality”, says Jean-François Charnier, director of the France Museum Agency, the entity responsible for the French counterpart in the agreement to build the new institution.

In total, the permanent exhibition is spread over 12 galleries, in addition to The Great Courtyard, starting with The First Villages, where stands the impressive two-headed Monumental Statue, on loan from the Jordan Department of Antiquities, from around 6.500 BC, reminiscent of the slender sculptures of Giacometti, until a global stage, with contemporary works, not all of them as unanimous in quality, such as the Ai Weiwei party rice, with a sculpture of lights inspired by the Tower of Babel _as always, the effect overlapping the content.

Grand Vestibule, Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo: Marc Domage

In the course of the 12 galleries, diversity is indeed a keynote, and some pieces such as Leão de Mari-Cha, produced in Andalusia or southern Italy around the 11th century, are believed to have produced sound. “It represents this meeting of cultures during the Middle Ages, an Islamic piece produced in the West,” explained Souraya Noujaim in gallery 6 From the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, where she is located.

Although Salvatore Mundi is not yet on display, another painting by Leonardo da Vinci reigns supreme in gallery 7, The World in Perspective. Its about La Belle Ferroniere, made in Milan between 1495 and 1499, and which is one of the 300 works on loan at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, probably the most valuable.

In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Louvre Abu Dhabi also has two galleries for temporary exhibitions. Last March, “From one Louvre to another” (from one Louvre to another) compared the birth of the Louvre in Paris in 1973 with the new one in the United Arab Emirates, 224 years later.

“Globes, Visions of the World” presented the history of the relationship between the astronomical notion of the sphere and the creation of objects such as globes, astrolabes and maps in a path that mixes faith and science.

Whether in this last show or in the permanent exhibition, French art and production always gain some prominence, but after all, no one sells a brand for half a billion dollars and doesn't value it.


  1. there is a wrong date in the matter, the creation of the louvre in paris was not in 1992, but in 1793

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