ABU DHABI // Art lovers had their first glimpse last night of the treasures that await when the eagerly anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi opens its doors in 2015.
Birth of a Museum showcases 130 artworks from the museum's permanent collection. Officially opened by Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the National Security Adviser and Vice Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, it runs until July 20 at Manarat Al Saadiyat.
Among the guests were Jean-Luc Martinez, the new president-director of the Louvre in Paris, who was on his first international visit since assuming his new role, and the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, who designed the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
"This project is a very important one, the most important one," Mr Martinez said. "It's a great opportunity for France to do this museum here in such a country and I would like to thank this government for making this possible. It's really an honour for France and for my museum.
"It's just the beginning of an adventure between France and this country, but not only between France and this country. For all the world, I'm sure of that.
"The architectural project from Jean Nouvel, it's very, very impressive. We are sure that this museum will be one of the most impressive and amazing museums in the world - it's not only for the tourists, but for my profession too, we are building here a big step in the history of museums."
Mr Martinez hopes to visit Abu Dhabi every couple of months to speak to the team overseeing the project.
The architect Mr Nouvel said he was "really, really impressed" with the exhibition.
"This museum of civilisations will be the place of the dialogue between the civilisations and we have here the first testimony of that," he said.
Described as a universal museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi's permanent collection spans civilisations from the ancient to the present and includes artefacts from all over the world, as well as contemporary artwork.
Rita Aoun-Abdo, the executive director of the culture sector of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said the exhibition was "a very important milestone in the life of the project".
"In 2007, the UAE and France signed an intergovernmental agreement defining the creation of a universal museum that will present and will exhibit works of art from major periods, starting from archaeology to contemporary art, and from different geographic areas and without any boundaries of culture and civilisation.
"This was a very good vision and a very important one," she said.
"Today, the exhibition is really the translation of this vision. So when you enter the exhibition, you really have a tangible example of what the story and the narrative of the Louvre Abu Dhabi is about," Ms Aoun-Abdo said.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi will be joined by two others at the heart of Saadiyat Island's cultural district, with Guggenheim Abu Dhabi expected to open in 2017 and the Zayed National Museum in 2016.
Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, said Birth of a Museum was only a taste of what the Louvre Abu Dhabi will be and what the future holds.
"This is a small exhibit of what the museum will be. The impact of the museum is not going to be felt now," he said.
"You feel like, 'Wow' … imagine the impact on society and people and the region when these museums are there. The moment of opening these doors, I always say, is going to start a new chapter.
"All of these questions of what will be there, what won't be there, all this will be forgotten once these museums are part of us and part of our society."