To transport the magnificent Diana of Versailles statue from France to Abu Dhabi is no simple task. The piece hasn’t been outside of France since 1556.
A conservator first assesses the 2nd century BC marble statue to make sure it is fit to travel. Transporters then arrive and build a special crate as it travels in a standing position. After this, the statue is loaded onto a cargo plane because it’s too big for a regular aircraft and is accompanied at all times to make sure it is handled correctly. Finally, the crate is taken into Louvre Abu Dhabi on a forklift and is unpacked by the expert team.
Diana of Versailles is one of the most striking pieces in Louvre Abu Dhabi’s first exhibition - From One Louvre to Another: Opening a Museum for Everyone, which launched on Tuesday.
The exhibition showcases 150 masterpieces from the Chateau de Versailles and the Louvre Museum, including statues, paintings and ceramics from across the world.
They will be returned to France once the exhibition ends.
From One Louvre to Another takes people back to 17th and 18th century France, tracing the foundation of the famous Paris museum at a time when granting public access to royal collections was gaining ground.
The first phase shows how French royal collections in Versailles were displayed in the gardens, the state apartments and the king’s private apartment.
It then moves to the Louvre palace in Paris, a centre of artistic activity in the 18th century, and progresses to the grand opening of the museum in 1793 following the bloody turmoil of the French revolution.
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The exhibition also shows how the Louvre became a truly universal museum during the 19th century by acquiring works from across the globe. Scenography recreates the outdoor lighting of the gardens at Versailles and brings to life the artists’ studios within the Louvre. Immersive films are also employed.
Manuel Rabate, director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said now the Arab world’s first universal museum had opened, the focus was for it to be a place of life, where the public visit and also come back.
“We are proud to start with this jewel – it shows the creation of the Louvre in Paris as a universal museum,” he said.
“The Louvre in Paris was a transformational milestone in France and we hope to achieve the same with Louvre Abu Dhabi.”
Other standout pieces in the exhibition include the Creation of the World clock, a bronze masterpiece of 18th century French clockmaking with four complex mechanisms; Jean Garnier’s painting Allegory of Louis XIV, Protector of Arts and Sciences from 1672; and the Barberini Vase, made in Syria between 1239 and 1260 showcasing the brilliance of Syrian coppersmiths.
From One Louvre to Another was curated by president-director of the Louvre Museum, Jean-Luc Martinez and Juliette Trey, curator of the prints and drawings department at the Louvre Museum, and it has been in the works since 2014.
“We want to show the common roots that the Louvre and Louvre Abu Dhabi share. The idea of sharing a collection, giving access to the public and that also Louvre Abu Dhabi is a universal museum," said Ms Trey.
For Ms Trey, the exhibition will explain the arduous process behind opening a museum and building a collection. “It takes ages, dozens of years. And the collection comes from different times and places – it could be a gift or commission or bought at auction. But even if you are not interested in this story, the artwork is quite impressive.”
Also launched on Tuesday was Co-Lab: Contemporary Art and Savoir-faire. The display features four works by UAE-based artists: Talin Hazbar, Zeinab Alhashemi, Vikram Divecha, and Kahlid Shafar in collaboration with French manufacturers. The four projects revolve around the theme of time and the works can be seen in Louvre Abu Dhabi’s forum.
The launch was attended by Saif Ghobash, director general of the Department of Culture and Tourism and Ludovic Pouille, French ambassador to the UAE.
“The exhibition will tell the stages the Louvre Museum has passed through,” said Mr Ghobash.
“It had a great impact on education and the way of thinking. The conditions the Louvre Museum and Louvre Abu Dhabi were established in were different, but the aims are the same – to make cultural treasures available for everyone.”
From One Louvre to Another runs at Louvre Abu Dhabi from December 21 until April 7, while Co-lab ends on March 25.
Access to both is included in the general admission price.