Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Museum District

(courtesy of



As the art world is slowly but surely making its way back from the economic downturn, one place that is bubbling with activity is Abu Dhabi. A cultural hot bed of the Arab world, the capital of the United Arab Emirates is experiencing a rebirth the likes of which is unparalleled anywhere in the world. Arms of the Guggenheim and the Louvre, just to name a few, are popping up there, along with a Museum of Islamic Art in nearby Doha, Qatar.

Designed by famed architect I. M. Pei, the Museum of Islamic Art houses a dynamic selection of art and artifacts from various parts of the Islamic world, which were assembled over the last two decades. Per the museum's website, the pieces housed within date from the 7th to the 19th centuries. It is certainly the first of its kind, and is geared towards educating a whole new generation of people by making local culture and art more accessible in this area. And more recently, Mathaf, or the Arab Museum of Modern Art, which is set to open in 15 days in Doha, is a showcase of art produced since the mid-19th century.

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, scheduled to open in a mere three years, has a budget of $600 million to build their collection, a sum made possible by the profitable local resource of oil. Frank Gehry is designing the 450,000 square-foot Guggenheim, the largest of its namesake in the world, which will only be 12 times larger than its New York counterpart. The Louvre branch, also set to open in 2013, will be designed by architect Jean Nouvel. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the government of Abu Dhabi is paying France a meager $1.3 billion, in large part to finance the establishment of their collection.

The museum district in which many of these powerhouse institutions can be found will also boast the Zayed National Museum, which will honor the work and legacy of a more "local" name, the late leader of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The district, found on Saadiyat Island, or "Island of Happiness," barely five minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi, will be connected to the mainland by two large bridges. It can be see in the first image above. Only an hour from Dubai, the intention is for this area to become a luxury cultural travel destination. With this many one-of-a-kind museums, it appears that this will indeed be an oasis of happiness for anyone looking to spend a few days viewing art.

No comments: