Your personal audio tour of the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Monday, Feb 12, 2018, 04:59 AM | Source: Pursuit

Christopher Marshall

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 Louvre Abu Dhabi is an art and civilisation museum that opened in November 2017. Picture: Supplied

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.

1. Water

Ewer for Zamzam holy water, Turkey 1750 -1800/ Ewer in Persian shape, Southern China 1500 – 1520/ Indian ewer embellished in Italy, India, Gujarat and Italy about 1640. Picture: Supplied

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

Amphora showing Heracles battling the Nemean lion, Antimenes (?) (potter – painted in Athens), Greece, About 520 BCE/Hybrid creature, tomb guardian, Warring States period, China 400 – 300 BCE. Picture: Supplied

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.

3. Motherhood

Virgin and child, France, Paris, 1320–1330/ Isis nursing her son Horus, Egypt 800–400 BCE / Phemba, maternity figure, D. R of Congo 1800–1900/ Picture: Supplied

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

Monumental statue with two heads, Jordan, Ain Gazal, About 6500 BCE. Picture: Supplied

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.

5. Death

Sarchophagus lid in Greek style, Phoenician civilization Lebanon, 450 – 400 BCE. Picture: Supplied

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

Mosaic: procession of cupids riding on fish, Roman empire Tunisia, Sousse, 300 – 325 CE. Picture: Supplied

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

The Residence of a Sugarcane Planter in Brazil, Frans Post, Netherlands, 1650 - 1655. Picture: Supplied

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.

8. Cosmography

Nautilus shell decorated with mythological scenes, Cornelius van Bellekin, Netherlands, 1600 – 1700/ Salt cellar with Portuguese soldiers and a caravel, Edo culture, Nigeria, ancient kingdom of Benin, about 1600. Picture: Supplied

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

Napoleon Crossing the Alps 1800, Jacques-Louis David, France, 1803. Picture: Supplied

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

La Belle Ferronniere, Leonardo da Vinci, Italy, Milan, 1490. Picture: Supplied

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

Papunga, a Rockhole Site West of Kintore, Ningura Napurrula, Australia, Pintupi, 2002. Picture: Supplied

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.

University of Melbourne Researchers