Louvre Abu Dhabi: advance notices

Louvre Abu Dhabi will be opening five new exhibitions for its upcoming 2023-2024 cultural season, starting this summer with an edutainment for kids about space in art. That’s followed by an interesting-looking exploration of the Holy Books of the three Abrahamic religions, a reworking of a successful French exhibition on Islamic inspiration in Cartier’s designs, and the next Art Here show with works shortlisted for the third Richard Mille Art Prize (for which there’s an open call running now). Next Spring sees the fifth show, on the influence of animal fables.

Picturing the Cosmos 18 July to June 2025

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Children’s Museum is currently closed but reopens with this long-term show which promises to take younger visitors on a journey through space via its representations in art across time and cultures. As with most the Children’s Museum exhibits, it will be an immersive experience and won’t just be pretty pictures – “children will embark on a mission to develop their observational and analytical skills needed to become a space explorer”.

Letters of Light 13 September to 14 January

Held in partnership with Bibliothèque nationale de France and France Muséums (and co-curated by Laurent Héricher, Head of Oriental Manuscripts Department at the Bibliothèque nationale and Dr Souraya Noujaim, Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director) this exhibition will spotlight the Holy Books of the three Abrahamic religions – the Quran, the Christian Bible and the Hebrew Tanakh. This is of course a nice fit for the close-by and recently opened Abrahamic Family House with its three places of worship; the exhibition will explore the historical context in which each of the holy books emerged, their associated practices, and especially their role in intellectual and artistic history. As benefits the ethos of a ‘universal museum’, there will be an emphasis on their commonalities by highlighting episodes and figures that all three share. That could make for a fascinating and eye-opening show …

Cartier, Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design 15 November to 24 March

Cover of a pen box: India, 17th century. Walrus ivory, gold, turquoise, black paste. Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is one we’re really looking forward to – not because of the bling, but because of the design. Specially, the practical input the jewellery house’s designers took from the arts of Arabia. Co-curated by Évelyne Possémé, former Chief Curator of Ancient and Modern Jewellery at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and Judith Hénon-Raynaud, Deputy Director of the Department of Islamic Art at the Musée du Louvre, the exhibition will present more than 500 pieces ranging from jewellery and Islamic art to drawings, books, photographs, and archival documents.

This kind of collaboration between a reputable institution and a commercial brand is often fraught with danger, but in this case it seems a quite natural fit. Cartier, which was founded in 1847, created an archive department 50 years ago (it was the first jewellery house to do that) and began collecting its own antique designs ten years later; there’s some depth to its involvement.

The present exhibition is based on one that was initially displayed in 2022 at Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Dallas Museum of Art. A big hit in both Paris and Texas, it majored on the influences of Louis Cartier – a noted collector of Persian and Indian paintings, manuscripts, and other objects – and his younger brother Jacques, a frequent traveler to India and Bahrain.

The 2022 show did a great job of drawing out the variety of influences that were in the air at the time of some of Cartier’s most iconic creations, especially from the 1920s and 1930s; the arts and architecture of the Islamic world are cleverly diagrammed and dissected to show how they relate to iconic Cartier pieces.

Much of the applause for that show went to its designer, Liz Diller of the hip architectural practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro, who cleverly used visual tricks, digital video, and glass display cases to draw the viewer through the space. The same scenography is being used in Abu Dhabi, which bodes well.

Louvre Abu Dhabi Art Here 2023 21 November to February 2024

This third edition of the Art Here exhibition and the accompanying Richard Mille Art Prize (which will be won by one of the works displayed) is curated by Maya El Khalil, founding director of Jeddah’s influential Athr Gallery and now an independent curator, The theme she’s set is ‘Transparencies’ – the open call (which ends 31 May) says proposals should explore “the dynamics of transparency – its material and perceptual significance … drawing on the interplay of shadows, liquid reflections, and flashes of permeating sunlight as a starting point”. It takes place outdoors and under the dome for the first time, so there should be a lot of scope to use the effects of light …

Fables from East and West: from Kalila wa Dimna to the Fables of La Fontaine 20 March to 14 July 2024

Another interesting subject for a potentially great exhibition: the literary genre of animal fables, which first originated in India and Greece in the first century BCE, was spearheaded by Ibn al-Muqaffa‘ in the Arab-Islamic world and Aesop in the Greco-Roman world. Over the years, fables have continually transformed and adapted from one language to another, resulting in many new works being created in both the East and West. Organised in partnership with Bibliothèque nationale de France and France Muséums, Fables from East and West will examine the roots and evolution of this genre through a showcase of illustrated manuscripts, paintings, contemporary works and more.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is open 10 am to 6.30 pm Tuesdays to Thursdays and 10am to 8.30pm Fridays to Sundays (it’s closed on Mondays). Unless there’s a change of policy, entrance to the exhibitions will be included in the general admission charge of AED 63 (there are lots of discounts for different groups, and under 18s go free anyhow).

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