ABU DHABI // From leading architects to sought-after global artefacts, Saadiyat Island proved in the last 12 months that it could attract the best in the world.
The year began on a positive note, with the announcement of a new timetable for the construction of the island's landmark museums.
Confidence that the capital's arm of the Louvre, the Guggenheim and the Zayed National Museum would be completed by 2017 reawakened enthusiasm for the long-delayed projects.
The revised delivery dates came three months after the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), the island's master developer, admitted construction was stalled. But although there were delays, none of the projects was scrapped.
"We are fully confident that we will fulfil our promise of delivering the level of museums expected from TDIC, the Saadiyat Cultural District and Abu Dhabi," said Mubarak Al Muhairi, general manager of TDIC, in January last year.
Saadiyat continued to host large-scale cultural attractions with the arrival of a major international exhibition. Treasures of the World's Cultures arrived at Manarat Al Saadiyat in April for three months. A collection of more than 250 artefacts and artworks spanning the whole of human civilisation, it delighted visitors with a thirst for a glimpse into bygone ages.
The exhibition, developed by the British Museum in 2002, was specifically tailored for Abu Dhabi and incorporated pieces from the Sharjah Archaeology Museum and Al Ain National Museum.
It was one in a series of shows being held in collaboration with the British Museum ahead of the scheduled opening of the Zayed National Museum in 2016.
Children were also included in the arts and culture scene last year, with a year-long exhibition for youngsters aged 8 to 12 beginning in September. Eco Future aims to teach youngsters how to lead a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle through interactive games.
Fifty galleries, representing 20 countries, drew crowds to Saadiyat in November with the fourth Abu Dhabi Art fair - the second time the event had been held there.
The fair included more Asian galleries this year, with a focus on emerging artists such as Hamdan Al Shamsi and Shamsa Al Amera.
The event's biggest hit was a talk by the three world-renowned architects behind Saadiyat's museums.
Jean Nouvel, the designer of Saadiyat's Louvre; Frank Gehry, who designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; and Norman Foster, designer of the Zayed National Museum, attracted large-scale attention and a standing-room only audience of about 1,000, with many people unable to get in.
"More collectors and visitors combined with quality art, performances and music made for a vibrant atmosphere at Abu Dhabi Art this year," said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, after the event.
"The quality of the 2012 edition and the positive feedback received firmly establishes Abu Dhabi Art on the international art circuit and as a cultural hub linking east and west."
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi held a discussion about representing art from the Middle East in September as part of a series of events involving the public in discussions on the future museum.
Excitement about the Louvre continued to build with the release of details of more acquisitions for its permanent collection.
Among them is Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey's 1843 daguerreotype titled Ayoucha, the earliest known photographic representation of a veiled woman.
The year ahead already looks set to herald more exciting developments regarding the Louvre, which is due to open in 2015.
The next exhibition presenting a selection of its collection will open to the public on April 2, entitled Birth of a Museum.
There will also be plenty of events to satisfy those interested in the museums.
"The Talking Art Series for both the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will continue with a diverse variety of panels to introduce the public to the narrative, collections and developments of these museums," said Nicola Ure, senior cultural projects manager at the cultural department of TDIC.
"In addition to the fifth edition of Abu Dhabi Art, we will be presenting some contemporary art initiatives in the autumn which will be announced soon."
And there will be an important milestone for Saadiyat Cultural District in the early part of next year, as construction starts on the Louvre itself.