One million people visited Louvre Abu Dhabi in its first year: we look at what’s in store for the next 10 years

'My job is to plan. My job is to anticipate,' says museum director Manuel Rabate, as Louvre Abu Dhabi acquires new pieces, with the loans from Agence France-Museums beginning to go home

One million people visited Louvre Abu Dhabi in its first year: we look at what's in store for the next 10 years
One million people visited Louvre Abu Dhabi in its first year: we look at what's in store for the next 10 years

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s first birthday is tomorrow.

So, one year on, how has the museum done? Was it all just four days of pizazz at the opening last year? For a long time, Louvre Abu Dhabi did not release its visitor figures, making some wonder if the high numbers after the opening last November were just a blip.

One million visitors in one year

But now, the numbers are out and the museum has defied expectations: Louvre Abu Dhabi had one million visitors in the first year – a figure that puts it among the top 70 museums worldwide to reach that level of audience, and certainly the only one in the region.

Just as important for Manuel Rabate, the museum’s director, is where those figures are coming from. “I am not surprised, but I’m very happy with the breakdown of our visitors: 60 per cent coming from abroad, and 40 per cent UAE residents, which means both Emirati and people living in the UAE,” he says. “That is interesting because we could have been 80/20 – many major museums are only tourist magnets. We’re really balanced between our two objectives: one is to be a museum for the people here, a site of education and pleasure for residents, while also being part of the strategy for the development of the destination.”

In its first year, the museum has mounted six temporary exhibitions; held regular evening programmes of lectures, performances, DJ sets, and film screenings; welcomed 1,000 school visits; and is on its second children’s museum installation. It has also changed some of the works on permanent display: it has 40 new loans on show, from Agence France-Museums, the umbrella body of 12 French museums with which it partners, and 11 new acquisitions. This is an ongoing process, as its collection rotates fairly frequently. Fragile works, such as works on paper and textiles, are on show for three-month periods, and loans from the Agence France-Museums change every one to two years.

Almost half the works are on loan: they will go home in 10 years

It’s in the new acquisitions that we can glimpse the story of the museum to come: Louvre Abu Dhabi, even though only a year old, is already thinking about the future. Around half of the museum’s collection, of approximately 600 works, are loans from Agence France-Museums. For the 10 years that are left on the intergovernmental agreement between Abu Dhabi and France, that figure will successively drop.

“There is a decrescendo,” as Rabate puts it, “from 300, to 250, to 200.” Within that time period, Louvre Abu Dhabi will prepare by purchasing new works, and by expanding the geographical reach of its current loans. More

By Melissa Gronlund The National