Rare relics from ancient UAE revealed at Louvre Abu Dhabi

Various artefacts from Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi
Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Louvre Abu Dhabi has expanded collaborations with several partners from the UAE and the region, with new loans from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Ras Al Khaimah now on display. Also, extensions to existing loans have been agreed with the museum’s partners in Jordan, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

On display in Louvre Abu Dhabi’s galleries since November 2021 are artefacts on loan from key UAE institutions, representing the seven emirates. Telling the story of the nation’s history and highlighting the unity of the emirates, these artefacts were carefully selected to complement the museum’s narrative. Surfacing from different cultures and geographical locations, the UAE loans include:

• A vase with geometric decoration imported from Mesopotamia and dating back to 5500 BCE, a seal of a Dilmun merchant, and a plaster frieze from Sir Bani Yas Christian monastery featuring the Christian cross dated to 500 – 800 CE, from DCT Abu Dhabi;

A vase with geometric decoration imported from Mesopotamia and dating back to 5500 BCE
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• Two square composition abstract paintings done by the late painter Anwar Shemza in 1963 and an ancient symbols painting done by painter Dia Azzawi in 1963, from Guggenheim Abu Dhabi;

• Seven copper alloy incised arrowheads finely engraved with geometrical patterns dating back to 1500 – 1000 BCE, a complete soft-stone vessel, a complete decorated pottery bottle imported from the Indus Valley, a carnelian necklace, and an axe dating back to the Umm an-Nar period, from Al Ain Museum;

• A dagger with a lion-shaped handle dated 1100 – 600 BCE from Dubai Municipality;

• A decorated ivory comb dating back to 2300 BCE, representing the flourishing trade taking place at the time, from Sharjah Archaeology Authority;

• Three bead necklaces dating to 3000 BCE, from Ajman Museum;

• A decorative rustic dish imported from the Roman Empire circa 100 CE, from the Department of Tourism and Archaeology in Umm Al Quwain;

• A beautifully painted Chinese plate dated to 1500 – 1600 BCE which was discovered in 1977 at Al-Mataf archaeological site, from the Department of Antiquities and Museums – Ras Al Khaimah;

• A documentary titled Sharp Tools, directed by the Emirati filmmaker, poet, and artist Nujoom Al Ghanem and produced by Nahar Productions.

In addition, works by contemporary Emirati artists Hassan Sharif, Abdullah Al Saadi and Muhammad Kazem were displayed at Louvre Abu Dhabi’s latest exhibition, Stories of Paper.

Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: “We are thrilled to be extending our existing loan agreements with our partners in the UAE and the region. This cooperation refines the essence of our mission of telling stories of cultural connections. As our collection is already broadened by major French loans, it is also deeply rooted in this region thanks to those partnerships, enabling us to present our universal narrative from the very territory we are in.”

Dr Souraya Noujaim, Scientific, Curatorial and Collection Management Director at Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: “Louvre Abu Dhabi’s curatorial strategy has always revolved around telling stories of cultural connections by bringing together artworks from different civilisations throughout history in one shared space.

She added: “This is made possible through UAE and regional partnerships that we are continuously cultivating. Each piece that we exhibit illuminates new aspects of our unique institutional perspective and universal narrative and allows for open dialogue of cultural analogy. Our UAE and regional partnerships allow us to continuously enrich our galleries and provide our audiences with new experiences.”

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From the region

Additionally, Louvre Abu Dhabi has established significant regional partnerships through mutual loan agreements that shed light on the region’s history and cultural heritage. These partnerships include extending loan agreements with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Currently on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi is the two-headed monument from Ain Ghazal (6500 BCE), on loan from the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. The loan has been extended for another five years, with the new agreement incorporating skill sharing, education, conferences and other exchanges.

Additionally, loans from the National Museum of Saudi Arabia are currently on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi. These include the double-faced stone hand tool, the funerary stele for Alwaleed bin Mohammed, Milestone on the Road to Mecca, and Fragments of a Rock Wall.

‘Fragments of a Rock Wall’ from Saudi Arabia at the museum
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The partnership between Louvre Abu Dhabi and the National Museum of the Sultanate of Oman continues to grow with further exchanges of loans between the two institutions. A rare shell-shaped incense burner from the 12th – 14th centuries, on loan from Oman, is currently on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi. The latter lent six 16th-century Iznik ceramics from its collection to the National Museum of Oman last December.

These beautifully ornate ceramics will remain on display in the ‘Splendours of Islam’ gallery at the National Museum of Oman until December 2022, as part of the exhibition Gardens of Paradise: The Language of Flowers in Iznik Ceramics.