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Edouard Manet (French, 1832-1883). The Bohemian, 1862. Oil on canvas; 90.5 x 55.3 cm

ABU DHABI.- On the occasion of a state visit by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic, His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President Sarkozy today inaugurated a preview experience of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first universal museum in the Middle East. The event took place as part of a celebration to mark the commencement of construction of the museum. The preview, titled Talking Art: Louvre Abu Dhabi, will reveal for the first time the concept of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, with works from the Louvre and other French national museums being shown with the first acquisitions for the Louvre’s Abu Dhabi developing collection.

Presented in Gallery One of Emirates Palace through 2 July, the 90-minute preview features a brief film screening illustrating the Louvre Abu Dhabi design by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel; an illustrated talk about the concept of the Louvre Abu Dhabi; and a guided tour of a group of artworks specially chosen to show the curatorial vision for the museum. When it opens in 2012/13, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will showcase the interrelationships among artistic achievements from different cultures around the world, from the most immemorial to the very latest, across borders of technique and geography and will establish a distinctive dialogue among fine arts, decorative arts, and archaeological artefacts, in exhibitions that are unique to this museum and its setting.

Talking Art: Louvre Abu Dhabi is a beautifully crafted example of what a visitor will experience in the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It gives the public an opportunity to open the doors of the Louvre Abu Dhabi before its physical completion on Saadiyat Island,” stated His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage and of Tourism Development & Investment Company. “We welcome the highly distinguished French scholars and cultural leaders who have joined us for the inauguration of this programme, to offer the public an exceptional series of discussions.”

"The Louvre Abu Dhabi project is unique, in that it does not attempt to duplicate the Louvre but to create an entirely new museum," stated Henri Loyrette, Director, Louvre Museum. "This new institution will take the very essence of the Louvre--an essence that resides above all in the skills and knowledge that led to its foundation and continued development--and combine it with the tradition of openness that characterises the United Arab Emirates, thus giving a new dimension to the aspirations of a universal museum.

"This effort involves more than just the Louvre Museum," Mr. Loyrette continued, "because all of the major French museums have been involved in creating Agence France-Muséums. This is a wonderful opportunity to link all of the French national collections, allowing specific projects to be undertaken thanks to French loans, while also assisting in the development of Louvre Abu Dhabi collection."

On view are the first works acquired for the Louvre’s Abu Dhabi developing collection, ranging in date from the 6th century BC to the early 20th century, and in place of origin from China to France. Accompanying them are works on loan from French national collections (Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Musée Guimet, Musée du Louvre, Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne, Musée d’Orsay, Musée du Quai Branly). Together these works illuminate the artistic and cultural interrelationships that are at the heart of the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The film of Jean Nouvel’s architectural vision for the Louvre Abu Dhabi depicts a museum city, where a variety of Arab architectural forms combine to create a showcase for the artistic expressions of different civilisations and cultures. Relating to the film, a large-format photograph by Thomas Struth (1989, Paris, Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne) offers a glimpse of the galleries of the Louvre, combining the perspectives of the visitor and the artistphotographer.

Talking Art: Louvre Abu Dhabi will include two Mamluk works, a section of a Holy Qur’an from Egypt or Syria (second quarter of the 14th century) and a Mosque lamp (1347-1361, Paris, Musée du Louvre), which evoke the symbolism of light as the illumination of the mind and the understanding of the divine. Influences across cultures are seen in two Buddhist sculptures, one from the Gandhara region (2nd-3rd century) showing Mediterranean stylistic traits in an Indian subject, and one from the north of China (550-577 AD) showing the translation of an Indian tradition into China.

Pierre Legrain, the favourite decorator of the celebrated fashion designer and art patron Jacques Doucet, created the Curule Stool (c. 1920-25) in homage to the first exhibitions of African art in France, presented from the end of the 1910s onwards. The stool recalls two works of the Musée du Quai Branly: an elegant Tsonga headrest (2nd half of the 19th century), which entered the French national collections after the 1890s, and an Abomey stool with a curule seat (late 19th century), made of kapok wood, which entered the French national collections in 1931.

Two paintings by Edouard Manet, The Bohemian and Still Life with Bag and Garlic (1861-62), which were cut from their original canvas by Manet himself and had long been separated, have now been reunited at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. They are seen with the engraving Les Gitanos (1862, Paris, Biblithèque nationale de France, department des estampes et de la photographie), which shows the artist’s original composition. Paul Cézanne’s highly abstract Rocks Near the Caves Above Château Noir (1904, Paris, Musée d’Orsay) is one of the artist’s late works that had a deep impact on the avant-garde of the early 20th century. Its visual synthesis of forms and colours, blended to capture the essence of a landscape, was one of the paths that Piet Mondrian meditated upon to create his pure abstraction, whose quintessence can be found in his Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black (1922).

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Edouard Manet (French, 1832-1883). Still Life with Bag and Garlic, 1862. Oil on canvas; 27 x 35 cm