Art lovers will have a vivid new space to explore when the Louvre Abu Dhabi finally opens after a decade in the making. Though the project was delayed a few times since it was first announced in 2007, the museum — which is located on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island – was opened in 2017.
Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the new structure will include 55 different detached buildings, 23 of which are devoted to gallery spaces that are connected by promenades overlooking the ocean.
Made to be a “museum city,” thanks to its massive size and structure, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was inspired by the low-lying homes of the region. Visitors should feel as if they’re walking through the narrow streets of an Arabian Medina as they explore the space.
This desert oasis is entirely surrounded by water, and is covered by a dome with a diameter that stretches a staggering 180 meters (about 590 feet). The dome features a geometric pattern comprised of nearly 8,000 metal stars that create a moving “rain of light” effect when sunlight hits the dome. It took around two years just to install this impressive cupola.
Natural light is also allowed to flood the building through a series of lateral windows, glass mirrors, and 18 different glass ceilings. The museum will have artworks on loan from 13 leading French museums, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Belle Ferronnière,” Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portrait, and Jacques-Louis David’s “Napoleon Crossing the Alps,” among others.
Collections organized in chronological galleries will feature pieces that range from prehistoric times to contemporary works. The Louvre Abu Dhabi will explore a wide variety of themes through these works, such as maternity, funerary rituals, and universal religions.
Visitors will also find grandiose works like artist Giuseppe Penone’s “Leaves of Light:” a towering bronze tree with mirrors in place of leaves and branches that reflect the light filtering through the museum. Special exhibits will include “From One Louvre to Another: Opening a Museum for Everyone,” which steers visitors through showcases on the royal collections of Versailles and the creation of Musée du Louvre in Paris. This particular exhibition will open on December 21.
The museum will also house a restaurant and a dedicated children’s museum, where visitors ages 6 through 12 can take part in workshops and interactive sessions.
Visitors can access the Louvre Abu Dhabi either by foot or by boat, while an underground service tunnel will also connect the space to the Zayed National Museum and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. “It is rather unusual to find a built archipelago in the sea; it is even more uncommon to see that it is protected by a parasol creating a rain of light,” Nouvel said in statement.
“The possibility of accessing the museum by boat or finding a pontoon to reach it by foot from the shore is equally extraordinary, before being welcomed like a much-awaited visitor waiting to see unique collections, linger in tempting bookstores, or taste local teas, coffees, and delicacies,” he added.
Tickets for the Louvre Abu Dhabi are 60 AED (about $16) for general admission and 30 AED (about $8) for visitors ages 13 to 22.