Louvre Abu Dhabi Announces Contemporary Commissions

World-renowned artists Giuseppe Penone and Jenny Holzer creating artworks which will be installed underneath the dome’s ‘Rain of Light’

Louvre Abu Dhabi has commissioned two internationally acclaimed artists to create site-specific artworks that will be displayed in the museum when opening in 2017. Jean Nouvel’s ‘museum city’ with its streets, plazas and waterways will feature artworks exhibited both inside the galleries as well as outside. Giuseppe Penone and Jenny Holzer have worked closely with the Louvre Abu Dhabi team to develop sculptures and installations reflecting the universal stories of the museum and in harmony with the iconic building. These are the first of a number of commissions for Louvre Abu Dhabi which will through a diversity of artists, reflect the universal nature of the museum.

HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), said:

“In line with Louvre Abu Dhabi’s ambition to reflect the universal nature of art making, we have commissioned contemporary works by the internationally renowned artists, Giuseppe Penone and Jenny Holzer. The artists’ works are inspired by the museum’s iconic architecture and diverse stories and play an important role in connecting the cultures and civilisations of our past with the relevant ongoing conversations and artistic practices of today.”

Italian artist Giuseppe Penone (Garessio, 1947), one of the youngest members of the Arte Povera movement, has created Germination, a four-part installation that reveals the artist’s fascination with the use of organic materials, such as trees, to highlight the connection between man, nature and art. The central element of the installation is Penone’s Leaves of Light, a vast bronze tree which interacts with  Jean Nouvel’s architectural design through mirrors placed on its branches reflecting the ‘Rain of Light.’ Soaring towards the dome covering the museum’s outdoor walkways, the tree becomes a symbol of life, as shared by all cultures.

Giuseppe Penone commented:

“The artworks that I have developed for Louvre Abu Dhabi aim to inscribe themselves in the place, underscoring aspects of its architectural form and content. The pieces that make up Germination echo the museum’s universal spirit.”

Through an exceptional collaboration with the workshops of Sèvres – Cité de la céramique, Penone has also created several works including Propagation, a wall of porcelain tiles representing concentric circles drawn by hands. The lines of the drawing germinate from Sheikh Zayed’s fingerprint to show how a simple action can create an infinite space.

American artist Jenny Holzer (Ohio, 1950), known for her artwork that has been widely exhibited at international exhibitions, has created three engraved stone walls of texts from important historical sources from across the world. These walls will feature excerpts from Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah from the Atif Efendi Library collection in Istanbul, the Mesopotamian bilingual (Acadian / Sumerian) Creation Myth tablet from the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin, and the 1588 annotated edition of Michel de Montaigne’s Essais from the Bordeaux Municipal Library.

Jenny Holzer commented:

“It’s delightful to work on this significant new museum. Louvre Abu Dhabi set an ambitious agenda for itself, and raises lively questions about museums and civilisations. It’s a privilege and a challenge to realise an installation that joins Jean Nouvel’s architecture and that speaks with the fantastic works the museum will display.  I made my walls in close relation to Jean Nouvel’s building, which I saw as an ideal archaic village under a most beautiful futuristic sky dome.”

Works from the permanent collection will be displayed alongside these commissions in the outdoor areas of the museum. Recreating the atmosphere of an Islamic courtyard, an Ottoman octagonal fountain and pavement (18th Century, Damascus, Syria) will be integrated in a contemporary scenography flooded with light.

As part of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Talking Art Series, “Giuseppe Penone, Creativity and Commissions” will be held on Thursday, November 17 2016 from 4:00 – 5:00 pm, during Abu Dhabi Art. The talk will feature Giuseppe Penone, Artist, and will be moderated by Jean François Charnier, Scientific Director of Agence France-Muséums. To register, please follow this link.

Overlooking the Arabian Gulf, Louvre Abu Dhabi is designed as a ‘museum city’ with its contrasting series of white buildings inspired by themedina (city) and low-lying Arab settlements.  Visitors can wander from the indoor galleries, to the open-air areas of the museum, which are cooled by traditional Arabic architectural techniques. The museum will also offer temporary exhibitions, a children’s museum, restaurants, a shop, promenades and gardens.

Follow Louvre Abu Dhabi on social media: Facebook (Louvre Abu Dhabi), Twitter (@LouvreAbuDhabi) and Instagram (@LouvreAbuDhabi).


Louvre Abu Dhabi will be a universal museum on Saadiyat Island that translates the exchange of cultures through art works from ancient to contemporary times. Designed by architect Jean Nouvel, the museum represents an Arab madina (city) with its 23 permanent galleries, temporary exhibition space, Children’s Museum, auditorium, restaurants, retail and a research centre. Visitors will be able to walk the promenades beneath the museum’s iconic dome and overlooking the sea, experiencing the museum’s enchanting ‘rain of light’ inspired by the shadows of overlapping palm trees in the UAE’s precious oases where travellers once crossed paths.

Art works displayed originate from civilisations all over the world highlighting universal themes and similar influences (rather than segregated by civilisations like in most Western museums) such as the portrayal of power by rulers, representing the divine, exploring unknown lands and the dawn of globalisation. Louvre Abu Dhabi has acquired more than 600 objects to date including series and collections, some of which will be exhibited with 300 loaned works from 13 leading French institutions.

Born of an intergovernmental agreement between the Government of Abu Dhabi and France in 2007, the name of Louvre is loaned for a period of 30 years, art works from French institutions for 10 years on a decreasing basis as the permanent collection grows and the programming of temporary exhibitions for 15 years. The construction of Louvre Abu Dhabi building is in its final stages. The building will then enter an important preparation phase, essential for a museum of this magnitude that includes testing, art installation and development of the visitor experience ahead of the official opening. Louvre Abu Dhabi will welcome visitors in 2017 and its opening date will be announced soon.


Saadiyat Cultural District on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, is devoted to culture and the arts. An ambitious cultural undertaking of the 21st century, it will be a nucleus for global culture, attracting local, regional and international visitors with unique exhibitions, permanent collections, productions and performances. Its iconic buildings will form a historical statement on the finest 21st century architecture; Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. These museums will complement and collaborate with local and regional arts and cultural institutions including Universities and Research Centres.


Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) conserves and promotes the heritage and culture of Abu Dhabi emirate and leverages them in the development of a world-class, sustainable destination of distinction which enriches the lives of visitors and residents alike. The Authority drives the Emirate’s tourism sector and markets the destination internationally through a wide range of activities aimed at attracting visitors and investment. Its policies, plans and programmes relate to the preservation of heritage and culture, including protecting archaeological and historical sites and to developing museums, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. TCA Abu Dhabi supports intellectual and artistic activities and cultural events to nurture a rich cultural environment and honour the emirate’s heritage. A key role is to create synergy in the destination’s development through close co-ordination with its wide-ranging stakeholder base.


Chaired since its creation by Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, it brings together the Louvre Abu Dhabi partner institutions: the musée du Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, the musée d’Orsay and musée de l’Orangerie, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the musée du quai Branly, the Réunion des Musées Nationaux et du Grand Palais (RMNGP), the Château de Versailles, the musée national des arts asiatiques-Guimet, the musée de Cluny, the École du Louvre, the musée Rodin, the Domaine National de Chambord, the musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris, the Cité de la Céramique – Sèvres & Limoges, the musée d’Archéologie nationale – Saint-Germain en Laye, the Château de Fontainebleau, and OPPIC (Opérateur du patrimoine et des projets immobiliers de la culture). Jean-Luc Martinez chairs the Scientific Council of AFM.

Agence France-Muséums is committed to accomplishing with success the Louvre Abu Dhabi project, in partnership with the French institutions. AFM has been entrusted with the task of carrying through the commitments of France to the project of the universal museum of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and of structuring the expertise of the French cultural institutions involved. It provides assistance and expertise to the authorities of the United Arab Emirates in the following areas: definition of the scientific and cultural programme, assistance in project management for architecture including museography, signage and multimedia projects, coordination of the loans from French collections and organization of temporary exhibitions, guidance with the creation of a permanent collection, and support with the museum’s policy on visitors.

Photo Credit: Louvre Abu Dhabi, TDIC
Architect: Ateliers Jean Nouvel