Jean Nouvel’s most awaited building of the last years, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, finally opens this coming 12 November through what promises to be a ceremony of great political substance. Originally programmed for the year 2012, the project has been swamped with money problems caused mainly by the international financial crisis and low oil prices, and also political troubles, such as instability in the wake of the Arab uprisings of 2011, but the building finally rises as a major landmark of the Saadiyat Cultural District, within the framework of an ambitious strategy to turn the United Arab Emirates, through sheer chequebook power, into the leading culture hub of the Persian Gulf.
An agreement signed in 2007 by the governments of France and the UAE has made it possible for the museum to borrow 700 works from diverse French institutions, mainly the Louvre itself. But the selection of pieces is likely to pale when exhibited in such a powerful space, visually and symbolically dominated by a colossal dome, flattened and perforated, whose geometric pattern immediately recalls the arabesque tradition. Its generous shade will protect the Van Goghs and Monets during their stay in the exotic cradle of the petrodollar.