After ten years of planning and construction, plus over a billion dollars invested, a new branch of the fabled Louvre museum will open on the island of Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
CNN describes the museum as a “huge milestone not just for the Middle East, but for the world.” It boasts a huge, ornate, domed ceiling made of aluminum stars, decorative pools, a marina, a children’s museum, a research center, and of course an extensive collection of exhibits, some of them borrowed from the Louvre in France.
New artwork has been commissioned for display alongside priceless classics from artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, and Claude Monet. According to the BBC, the fabled painting “Whistler’s Mother” is one of the works on display in the Louvre Abu Dhabi at its opening.
“The Middle Eastern art market has an appetite for contemporary and 20th-century pieces, but not much else beyond that. Having an institution of this caliber on the doorstep will allow collectors and enthusiasts to gain a deeper understanding of art history, and the credibility it lends the region could have a positive impact for both buyers and sellers,” CNN anticipates.
The museum tweeted out a very rapid video journey through its exhibits in anticipation of opening day:
French President Emmanuel Macron was in Abu Dhabi for the unveiling ceremony on Wednesday. Macron said the museum is a “bridge between civilizations” and declared, “Those who seek to say Islam is the destruction of other religions are liars.”
Concerns about the welfare of foreign workers during the construction of cultural facilities on Saadiyat Island, including squalid living conditions, injuries, low wages, and “unlawful recruiting fees” (i.e. the workers paying a fee for the privilege of being hired) caused controversy and protests, including an artist’s strike and a worker hunger strike.