Raffaela Rondini

Abu Dhabi’s Louvre

Raffaela Rondini

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Raffaela Rondini

We open this blog in style, with the Louvre of Abu Dhabi. Stretching its graceful, white-cubed body along the seaside while being overlooked by an immense pitted dome of silver, Jean Nouvel’s marvel is home to a number of famous masterpieces of eastern and western art along with a curious selection of avant-garde works. On the shores of this hot sea, at the edges of the desert, the beauty of the natural surroundings and humanity’s genius is enchanting.

If it is true that only the consciousness that passes through one’s own senses leaves a permanent impression on the mind, then this work and all of those within it need to be seen in person and there is nothing else to say. And if this is the case, we could even stop here, for this blog will be of no use to anyone.

But for those of us who, for quite valid reasons, cannot run off to the edges of the Arabic desert this very minute it is helpful to know that there is a physical location where many points of view come together to love each other sublimely and very different people, spaces, and times have no trouble living together whatsoever.

You might even make those who assert that the two worlds can never meet, that diplomacy is impossible and that the reasons are beside the point and, in any case, to be proven with force take a compulsory trip to the Louvre of Abu Dhabi, for here it is possible to experience a truly sublime sense of fulfillment. In fact, it can even inspire hope in a future of shared respect between civilizations. The internal and external beauty of the building together with the long and fruitful intercultural collaborations that accompanied its construction are a great lesson for humanity as well as an occasion for different peoples to reconcile and to overcome the stubborn preconceptions, fears, and closed minds that have pitted them against each other, things we need now more than ever. But the enlightened minds which willed the Louvre of Abu Dhabi into existence are convinced that form is substance, that wisdom connects us, and that, confronted with the essence of life, we are all part of a great family. Indeed, within this luminous elegance the sky, sea, desert, and splendid works of many of yesterday and today’s artists – in short, the best of all backgrounds – have met. In this way, as always on this earth, things come together and the process never stops, here in these spaces there are no limits, but simply soft and sweeping movements along with life in its natural flow.

The extremely clean and smooth forms, the delicate colors – from beige to turtle dove, from grey to sky blue – of the cafeteria’s ceiling, or simply the white and black help us feel at home in the complex scene, it’s as if we were honored guests. Here we walk with pleasure and curiosity. The most impressive element of the grand structure, however, is without a doubt its immense, perforated metal dome. Giving a great sense of protection, its innumerable gaps allow light and air to enter in a manner that constantly changes throughout the course of the day while granting us a sense of openness and freedom. It seems as if you are below a real celestial dome and you even feel a bit like a desert nomad with the breaths of hot air that reach you from all sides, but a fortunate one because there is enough shade to survive, not to mention a marvelous cafeteria and exhibition halls with the best air conditioning of all time. Beneath the magic silver dome of 1001 nights the white rooms unfold in a complex designed like an Arabic city.

Moving from one area of the museum to another you have to go out into the heat and walk down the grey avenues within the filigreed shadow of the dome. At times it’s like being in a Venetian square, those isolated and silent piazzas, and sitting down on a bench you can watch the sea come to softly beat the pale, salt-encrusted walls, though the dock posts at the edges of the building here are new new new, straight, and immobile. Instead of Venetian children playing, here you see Asian lifeguards in fluorescent orange, ready as per contract to fish the ecstasy-afflicted visitor out of the water. Thin birds sing and fly freely beneath the dome while visitors walk elegantly along the wide and hot streets of clear cement and the white, grey and blue of the sea and sky breathe into the delicate beauty.

If Venice is splendidly old and fixed within a rich and well-defined historical frame, this Louvre is on the one hand magnificently modern and on the other fantastically outside of time. The technology that allowed it to be built in the sea is the result of a lot of work and the most recent know-how, unimaginable just a decade ago, while the dome itself is a hymn to applied mathematics. But the pure and essential forms, the strong presence of nature, the clear colors, and the extent of the spaces give this structure an extremely wide timeframe and lift your eyes and your soul to wider horizons.

Translated by Alexander Booth

6 years ago

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