After a long, difficult and controversial birth, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has announced it will open to the public on 11 November 2017.
When it does, visitors will be able to walk through the promenades overlooking the sea beneath a 180m-diameter "floating" dome. This contains 8,000 metal stars set in a geometric pattern. The effect aimed at by Jean Nouvel, the museum’s designer, is a "rain of light" reminiscent of the overlapping palm trees in the UAE’s oases.
Nouvel, said: "After several years of studies and construction, guests will be able to enter this place of light, this revelatory meeting place of a number of planetary cultures beyond the seas and centuries.
"It is an architecture that is protective of its treasures, it is a homage to the Arab city, to its poetry in geometry and light, and, under the large cupola, it is an evocation of the temporalities which inexorably punctuate the hours, days, and the passing of our lives."
Abu Dhabi has agreed paid $525m to the Louvre to be associated with its name for the next 30 years, and a further $747m in exchange for artworks, artefacts and loans from French museums.
These will be divided into 12 "chapters" that will combine archaeological and historical items, as well as contemporary artworks. The aim is to highlight "universal themes and ideas".
Displays will include works from the earliest empires, including the "Bactrian Princess" created in Central Asia at the end of the third millennium BC, funerary practices of ancient Egypt illustrated by a set sarcophagi of Princess Henuttawy and the creation of money with a decadrachm coin of Syracuse signed by the artist Euainetos.
A gallery dedicated to universal religions will feature sacred texts such as the "Blue Quran", a gothic bible and texts from Buddhism and Taoism.
American artist Jenny Holzer has created three engraved stone walls for the museum. These cite historical texts from Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, a tablet containing a Mesopotamian creation myth and the 1588 annotated edition of Montaigne’s Essays.
The inaugural exhibition, From One Louvre to Another, opens on 21 December, and traces the history of Musée du Louvre in Paris. It will feature about 145 paintings, sculptures, decorative arts and other pieces from the Louvre and Versailles.
Construction on the project started in October 2014.
Images courtesy of Louvre Abu Dhabi/Mohamed Somji