The $1.4 billion mega project that has transformed Abu Dhabi into an international cultural hub

The Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat island has been 10 years in the making. In 2007, France and the Government of Abu Dhabi signed an agreement that unveiled the Louvre Abu Dhabi to the world. Last week, it finally opened its doors to the public. French President Emmanuel Macron was present at the opening of the museum alongside Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed as was Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and heads of state and kings from Afghanistan, Bahrain and Morocco.

The museum currently holds around 600 permanent artworks and another 300 which are loaned from museums in France. Gradually, the number of borrowed artworks will reduce as the Louvre Abu Dhabi goes on acquiring its own set of artwork and artefacts. Other Arab institutions have loaned 28 highly high-profile works to the new museum.

The massive 7,500-tonne latticed dome roof (it weighs nearly as much as the Eiffel Tower) is modelled after windows in the Middle East called Mashrabiya and allows for plenty of natural light to flood the museum.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

The project was plagued by several delays and was initially slated to be opened in 2012. The original cost was estimated to be $654 million, though the final cost is believed to have been pegged at around $1.4 billion. The new museum is the first project of an $18 billion plan to build an extravagant cultural island. The other projects that are reported to be in the pipeline are a new Guggenheim Museum which would be seven times larger than the original in New York City, a Norman Foster-designed Sheikh Zayed National Museum, a maritime museum by Tadao Ando and a Zaha Hadid-designed performing arts centre.

According to a report in the BBC, the museum is paying France hundreds of millions to use the Louvre name which has been borrowed for a 30-year-period. That fee also allows the museum to loan some of the artwork from the original Louvre apart from receiving management advice.


The Louvre in Paris is the world’s largest art museum and attracts millions of visitors each year – last year it is believed to have received over seven million visitors. Last year, there were 4.4 million visitors to Abu Dhabi. Clearly, there’s a massive potential for the new museum to become a major tourist magnet.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and includes 55 rooms – 23 of which are permanent galleries spread across 6,400 square metres. Each room has a floor mined from a different part of the world and inlaid with bronze work. The exhibits are arranged in 12 chapters and move chronologically from prehistory to present day spanning 12,000 years and keeps with the “universal museum” theme. These include community settlements pieces from Jordan and Central America that date back to 10,000 BCE right up to 21st-century art and installations that focus on collective identity.

The artwork includes treasures from Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Pablo Picasso as well as contemporary artists including Ai Weiwei. Some of the museum’s most valuable collection includes a 6th century BC sphinx and a frieze depicting figures from the Koran.

VIP guests will be able to arrive by boat to the museum. On-site is a children’s museum with interactive events, a café, gift shop, restaurant, a park and a 270-seat auditorium. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is all set to cement its place as a global cultural hotspot.