1. ABU DHABI (AFP).- The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors to the public on Saturday, drawing thousands of visitors as cosmopolitan as the United Arab Emirates itself, a symbol of the Gulf nation’s ambitions on the global stage.
Light streamed down from the vast domed ceiling, the open-air museum reminiscent of a traditional Arabic marketplace.
Inside, Emirati teenagers in flowing black robes snapped selfies next to a towering oil painting of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Hundreds of Asian, European and Arab expatriates dressed in stylish attire roamed through the vast museum alongside Emirati couples in traditional Arabic dress.
"I’m so excited to see what’s in the Louvre. I don’t know how to pronounce it," giggled Rachel Aquino, a Filipina nurse living in Abu Dhabi.
"LOOV," her friend Ruby Fullon, a fellow nurse from the Philippines, pronounced.
Down the palatial rear steps of the open-air structure, Alex Viera and Marcelo de Paula from Brazil snapped photos on a platform jutting out over the sea, with traditional dhow wooden ships moored in the background.
"I’ve been to the Louvre in Paris three times... I think it’s very nice to see it here in a modern context,” said Viera.
Emirati, Arabic, Islamic
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, the first museum to bear the Louvre name outside France, presents around 600 pieces and has been billed as "the first universal museum in the Arab world”.
Under the 30-year agreement, France provides expertise, loans works of art and organises temporary exhibitions -- in return for one billion euros ($1.16 billion).
The Louvre in France takes a 400-million-euro share of that sum for the use of its name up to 2037.
For the next 10 years, the mother ship in Paris will lend works to its Abu Dhabi partner on a voluntary basis, for a maximum of two years.
For its permanent collection, the museum has acquired hundreds of pieces, dating from the earliest Mesopotamian civilisations to the present day.
On opening day, guided tours wound through the spacious galleries as Asian and African dance troupes performed in the open-air sections overlooking the sea.
"It is not a copy of the Louvre," said Badria al-Mazimi, an architectural engineer.
The 26-year-old Emirati said she had visited the site when the museum was still under construction and had eagerly anticipated the public opening.
"The beautiful thing is they made it not just one building, but like a little neighbourhood. When you walk around, you feel like you're walking in an old Emirati quarter," she said, beaming as her husband studied a Central Asian statuette dating from 1700 BC.
"To see all these people from different nationalities waiting in this long line to visit the Louvre — it’s something really special," she said.
"This is what you see when you travel abroad, and now it’s here, in the Emirates."
Arab madina, arabesque patterns
More than a decade in the making, a VIP inauguration was held on Wednesday, with French President Emmanuel Macron among the first visitors.
The museum design, by France's Pritzker prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, conjures up the image of an Arab medina as seen through the eyes of a contemporary cinematographer.
A silver-toned dome with perforated arabesque patterns appears to float over the white galleries, creating what Nouvel describes as a "rain of light".
To reach the ground, each ray of light must cross eight layers of perforations, creating a constantly shifting pattern that mimics the shadows cast by palm trees or the roof of a traditional Arab market.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first of three museums to open on Saadiyat Island, where the UAE plans to launch the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, designed by Frank Gehry, and Norman Foster's Zayed National Museum.
2. BOSTON Massachusetts Appeals Court grants injunction to block Berkshire Museum sale
The successful Hail Mary pass came just before deaccessioned works, including two paintings by Norman Rockwell, were due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s on Monday
James H. Miller and Helen Stoilas
10th November 2017 22:37 GMT
Opponents of the Berkshire Museum's plan to fund an expansion and endowment by selling art protested this summer Gillian Jones/The Berkshire Eagle via AP
UPDATE: Late Friday night, a Massachusetts Appeals Court judge granted a preliminary injunction to block the Berkshire Museum from selling art from its collection at Sotheby's on Monday, 13 November. Justice Joseph Trainor found that "the risk of irreparable harm" weighed in the favour of the petitioners, including Rockwell’s sons, Berkshire Museum members and the Attorney General's Office (AGO), which recently asked to be added as a plaintiff to the cases. The injunction expires on 11 December, but the judge has given the AGO the option to extend the injunction until its investigation into the deaccessioning can be completed.
The decision comes just hours after the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (AGO) appealed a judge’s ruling from earlier this week that would have allowed the Berkshire Museum to go forward with the sale. Sotheby's auction was due to include valuable works from the museum's collection, including a pair of canvases by Norman Rockwell, Shuffleton’s Barbershop (1950) and Blacksmith’s Boy—Heel and Toe (1940), which the artist gave to the museum. The AGO asked the Appeals Court to halt the auction, stating: “There is significant potential for irreparable harm should this sale happen before the appeal is decided. If these objects are sold, there likely will be little if any opportunity to get them back.”
The AGO’s appeal cited an “abuse of discretion through clear errors of law” in Superior Court Judge John Agostini’s earlier decision to reject two motions brought by opponents of the sale. The filing states the judge misunderstood the museum’s obligations under the laws governing charitable trusts and its “duties of care”, which the AGO says the museum violated by setting unreasonable financial goals that were inconsistent with its purpose as a public art museum. This has led to the “severance of its relationship with prominent cultural institutions and associations... inability to secure future loans of art and shared exhibitions; damage to its donor relationships; and irreparable harm to its ability to meet the art component of its mission.”
Foley Hoag, the lawyer who represents Norman Rockwell’s family in the litigation, supported the appeal in a statement, repeating that the sale must be delayed immediately or else “the works will likely vanish into private collections outside of this jurisdiction, with no apparent mechanism to recover them should the Superior Court’s order later be reversed”.
A lawyer for the Berkshire Museum, William Lee, said that he expects a “swift resolution of this matter in Appeals Court. We are disappointed that the Attorney General has decided to continue legal action that threatens the future of the Berkshire Museum," reads the lawyer's statement, "particularly after a very clear legal decision rejected the arguments the Attorney General repeats in this misguided appeal”.
Opponents of the sale, including the citizens' group Save the Art—Save the Museum, which had planned dual protests on Saturday, 11 November, in front of both the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield and Sotheby’s headquarters on 72nd Street and York Avenue in Manhattan, celebrated Justice Trainor's decision on social media.
3. PUERTO RICO - Three weeks after the category four Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on 20 September, devastating the US Island, knocking out power and killing an as yet undetermined number of residents, local museums are back to work and helping with community relief efforts.
The Museo de Arte de Ponce—home to the British artist Frederic Leighton’s masterpiece, Flaming June (1895)—on the hard-hit southern coast of Puerto Rico, reopened to the public on 28 September and is providing free admission through 9 October, the Columbus Day holiday. “We thought we could give people a little haven of normality,” says the museum’s curator Pablo Perez d’Ors, who reached the Art Newspaper by landline. (There is still no mobile service in the southern region.) Attendance has been strong, and museum’s director Alejandra Peña Gutierrez says people have come up to museum staff on the street to tell them “you’re doing a great thing for our community”. Museum staff are so popular that some have even managed to get ahead on the gas lines, Gutierrez says. The museum is helping its staff by providing shower facilities and allowing them to store food in the museum’s freezer and refrigerator, since they are still without power.
Gutierrez says that the museum’s collections—including Frederic Leighton's Flaming June, arguably the island’s most famous work of art—are in “perfect shape” and that the building has no leaks, although staff needed to make the museum accessible to the public by clearing trees and leaves from the museum's surroundings. Staff were able to get to the museum the day after the hurricane to assess the situation—but had to leave written notes for each other on the front door, since there was no reliable means of communication. The museum had taken down a few works as a precautionary measure, and its diesel generator also kicked in even before the hurricane hit due to high winds, she says, noting that the museum has a protocol in place for tropical storms and hurricanes.
The museum is currently showing a loan exhibition organised by d’Ors, centred on Flaming June called Frederic Leighton and the Eternal Mediterranean (until 15 January 2018), which includes 18 works lent by the Leighton House Museum in London. All of the loans are “completely fine and unharmed”, the London museum confirmed to The Art Newspaper. The Frick Collection in New York, a partner institution which borrowed Flaming June for a travelling exhibition last year, reached out to the Ponce Museum last week to confirm it will carry on with its scheduled loan of works to the institution for the exhibition Small Treasures from the Frick Collection. The show is due to open at the Ponce Museum in November as planned prior to Maria (until spring 2018).
Puerto Rico’s museums had already been through Hurricane Irma, which struck the island two weeks before Maria, on 6 September. Lisa Ortega, the museum educator at the Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, told The Art Newspaper in an email that the museum had already closed for a week in September following Irma. “When we returned ‘to normal’, it was to prepare yet again [for a hurricane],” Ortega wrote. “We took all the precautions to protect the patrimony and equipment.” The museum’s building “suffered very little damage” during Maria, she said. The collection has not been harmed, and all of the staff are safe. The museum has mapped out a volunteer schedule for the week on its Facebook page, asking for members of the university community to help with cleanup efforts, such as clearing pathways.
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (MACPR) in San Juan is serving the community through its programming, including free workshops, music and dance performances. “Today more than ever we are sure that art and culture will be important tools that will help our people cope and recover from this crisis,” the museum wrote in a Facebook post on 30 September. It is also helping in material ways, collecting water, food, medicine and other necessities in its main hall, which it will distribute to people in need.
The San Juan-based Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña—whose staff were ordered back to work on 26 September by the government—has launched an initiative for local artists to volunteer their time to run cultural programmes for those affected by the hurricane (“Culture is resilience” and “Culture is happiness”, it says on its Facebook posts), and so far has had over 50 artists sign up.
The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) in San Juan remains closed, but staff are in the office working every day, says the interim director Marta Mavel Perez, who spoke with The Art Newspaper on a staff member’s mobile phone, since the landlines remain down. The museum has not suffered any major damage, nor have its collections, which are being kept in good condition since the museum has a diesel generator, although “we are trying to get [more] diesel”, she says. (Not all museums have such a generator, she notes.) But MAPR has decided to remain closed due to conditions such as the nightly blackouts—only five percent of the island currently has electricity—and communication issues, with no reopening date set. “As soon as everything comes back, we will be here for our public,” she says.
In the meantime, the museum is functioning as a hub for a communication network between cultural institutions within Puerto Rico, working with other cultural institutions such as the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. Perez and the museum’s registrar have been visiting other institutions to help them examine their collections. Fortunately, they have not seen any major damage, she says.
As a Smithsonian affiliate institution, MAPR is in a unique position to help in recovery efforts for cultural institutions across Puerto Rico. “We are the liaison in Puerto Rico,” Perez says. The museum is working with the Smithsonian to pull together a team to eventually come to the island from Washington, DC, in order to help museums put their collections back in order after the storm, and are also working to send group of Puerto Rican conservators to DC for training. “We are working in the short-term, medium-term and long term,” she says. “We are hoping we [will be] back in shape in December.”
MAPR is planning to launch online fundraising efforts, “with the commitment that we are going to help the other museums and collections in Puerto Rico”, Perez says. “We need all the help we can get, from the US and around the world.”
This article was updated on 5 October to include information from the Ponce Museum.
4. LENS.- Let the crotales ring and the trumpets sound! The Louvre-Lens Museum presents the very ﬁrst exhibition dedicated to the role of music in the great ancient civilisations, from the Orient to Rome via Egypt and Greece.
Music was an ever-present aspect of ancient cultures, where it served several functions. Whether played by professional musicians or amateurs, it accompanied people through the various stages of their lives, from the cradle to the grave. Just as likely to be heard on the battleﬁeld as it was around the high tables of power, it was also a key part of religious rites and acted as an intermediary between people and their gods. Known by all and played by many, music represents an original yet universal key, with which our visitors can unlock the secrets of civilisations, which vanished long ago, and discover their social, political and religious workings.
From Mesopotamian cylinder seals to monumental Roman reliefs, taking in Egyptian papyri and Greek vases along the way, the exhibition brings together almost 400 incredibly diverse items. Some of these often-fragile pieces have never been displayed before. They are taken from the collections of the Louvre museum and around twenty other institutions, both in France and further aﬁeld, including the National Museum of Athens and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The exhibition’s journey through time also includes new audio devices, which allow visitors to listen to reconstructions of what ancient instruments may have sounded like, as well as the oldest anthem known to mankind.
It is diﬃcult for anyone living in the 21st century to imagine the role of music in ancient cultures, especially since no sound from Antiquity survives to this day for our listening pleasure. On the other hand, musical instruments, sound-producing objects, musical notation and many depictions of musicians have been miraculously preserved, allowing us to tune in to 3,000 years of history. From modest handcrafted creations to priceless masterpieces, the museum's abundant and diverse collection of musical scenes - statues, ceramics, mosaics, and even coins - clearly shows the importance of music in Antiquity. This is also amply demonstrated by the remains of musical instruments, which reveal the astonishing know-how of the makers and the richness of the materials used: leather, bronze, bone, ivory, wood and more.
From Iran to Gaul, and from the 3rd millennium BC to the 4th century AD: the enormous geographical and chronological range of the exhibition allows us to underline cultural traditions and peculiarities, but also to highlight the exchanges, inﬂuences and crosspollination that took place between these diﬀ erent musical civilisations, which are often considered the foundation of our own musical heritage. As such, rattles, harps, ﬂutes and cymbals date back several thousands of years.
By revisiting the often-reductive image of ancient music as it appears in the Western imagination - inherited from 19th century clichés and popularised by opera, comics and Hollywood epics - the exhibition and the rich cultural programme that accompany it remind us that today, just as in the past, music and sounds have the power to captivate, beguile, comfort, frighten and excite us as they soundtrack the major events of our public and private lives.
This exhibition at the Louvre-Lens museum builds on a research programme created by the French Schools Overseas titled «Sonic landscapes and urban spaces of the ancient Mediterranean», led by the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology, the French School at Athens and the French School at Rome. It therefore provides an overview of current research in the ﬁeld, which is varied and extensive thanks to the work of curators, historians, archaeologists, ethnomusicologists, acousticians and archaeometrists.
5. BERLIN.- For the first time the sculptural traditions of Africa and Europe come together in a ‘conversation of the continents’ on the Museumsinsel Berlin. Over 70 major works of African sculpture from the Ethnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum) are on display in the Bode-Museum. Art from western and central Africa meets masterpieces from Byzantium, Italy, and central Europe. Never before have the sculptural traditions of these two continents been compared so extensively.
‘The preparations for the move to the Humboldt Forum offer us a unique opportunity to place the non-European holdings of the Staatliche Museen in dialogue with other works, reaching across the boundaries that traditionally divide the collections’, says Michael Eissenhauer, Director General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and Director of the Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst (Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art). Julien Chapuis, head of the Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst, adds: ‘The stimulating interplay between the African sculptures and our own collection not only promises to be a feast for the senses, but will also lead to fundamentally new insights.’ Viola König, Director of the Ehtnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum): ‘The exhibition's ethnological approach broadens the museum's focus on European art to include global contexts and brings the multi-perspectival displays, successfully practised by the curators in Dahlem, to the Museumsinsel.’
Some 20 juxtapositions throughout the permanent collection and a special-exhibition gallery address major themes of human experience, such as power, death, beauty, memory, aesthetics, and identity. Unexpected similarities and differences become apparent: the Renaissance sculptor Donatello’s putto with a tambourine seems to invite the Early Modern princess from the Kingdom of Benin to dance. Michel Erhart’s late Gothic Virgin of Mercy appears next to a power figure from the Congo, which, like the Madonna, was also created to protect a community. The Romanesque Christ seated in judgement from the Abbey Church of Gröningen and the large Ngil mask from the Fang region of Gabon or Cameroon both present awe-inspiring images of judges. Mythical heroes from central Africa take their place among late Gothic Christian figures and open up new perspectives on both collections.
An extensive catalogue and an app accompanies the exhibition, both providing in-depth information on specific themes.