George Blaustein at n+1:
THE MOST PLEASANT WAY to experience the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the same as with any monied museum: in total ignorance of the real circumstances of its creation. A broad steel dome of 7500 tons (the Eiffel Tower weighs about as much, in iron) rests on an archipelago of galleries and buildings. As you approach, it floats like a giant alien saucer from Independence Day. But from below the sunlight streaks through its delicate lattice of layered octagonal forms. This “rain of light,” both stunning and calm, evokes sun through palm leaves. The floors are gray, the walls are white, and all around is the blue of water and sky. The Louvre is on the island of Saadiyat, which means “happiness,” and Abu Dhabi’s gridded phalanx of skyscrapers stands at a relaxing distance across the water, like a shinier Chicago of the Middle East.
The circumstances of creation have not been harmonious for the first encyclopedic museum of art and civilization in the Middle East, nor has its western reception. “See humanity in a new light” is the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s slogan, but new light isn’t necessarily best light.