Discover Humanity and Yourself

at Louvre Abu Dhabi

My friend and I walked into the first chamber, and we were fascinated by the different names of cities on the floor and how beautifully it was written in different languages. Right at the entrance was the name of my city- Dilli (Delhi in English), written in Hindi. We both took a picture with “Abu Dhabi” in the background.

The first gallery is about the first villages that cropped up in some parts of the world such as Africa, East China, Mesopotamia and Indus valley area around 10,000- 5,000 BCE. Interestingly, these cultures revered  women; they created female figurines and worshiped them. You see, these early villages flourished only because women gave birth (maybe constantly), and let humanity progress; as life-span was short, fertility and women were critical and predominant factors in their lives.

The first gallery is about the first villages that cropped up in some parts of the world such as Africa, East China, Mesopotamia and Indus valley area around 10,000- 5,000 BCE. Interestingly, these cultures revered  women; they created female figurines and worshiped them. You see, these early villages flourished only because women gave birth (maybe constantly), and let humanity progress; as life-span was short, fertility and women were critical and predominant factors in their lives.

This interesting figure was worshiped by people of Indus valley civilization, and it was found in Baluchistan, now in present day Pakistan.

Very swiftly, we walked into the second gallery- The First Great Powers. A huge statue of Ramesses II, made of granite, sits in the center of this gallery. Priests, kings and pharos, during the first great civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Yangshao and Indus, created and insisted that they were the only connection between Gods and general public; this was achieved through extravagant rituals and theologies (Do you see some similarities between cults of that age and ours? Have we really evolved?).

At this time, human beings started using writing as a tool to communicate. Bronze was used to create weapons and armors not only to fight wars, but also to show off prestige and power of the elite.

Take a left to a small section that displays a big mummy and other figurines. I stood there wondering if people in that era knew more about science and technology, would they have spent so much of time, money and resources in securing their afterlife? Is there life after you die, or all that you have is this one life? Is there heaven and hell, or do we make it heaven and hell here on this planet earth for ourselves through our thoughts and actions?

On a bigger scheme of things, are we really that important- both as individuals and as humanity? I ruminated over such thoughts.

With a reflective mood, I entered the gallery of “Civilizations and Empires”. This was the time, around 1000 BCE, when some of the first empires started expanding and exploring other cultures. It was Augustus from the Roman empire, Alexander from the Greek empire, who got cultures and communities under one umbrella. Indus valley civilization, Persian empire and Han empire flourished in Asia, and Nok and Olmec cultures in Africa, and Mesoamerican culture in South America blossomed too. Art became focused on creating those intricate human bodies- look at the finely carved statue of Athena, made of marble in 100 BCE or 100- 200 CE.

Organized religions, through their dogmatic rituals and supremacy of kings and priests, helped bigger empires to expand their control on other territories; other factors that helped these kingdoms to capture other lands were extensive agriculture produce and use of superior bronze and other metallic weapons.

Better sea routes helped trade to flourish and also led to exchange of ideas and thoughts. All this can be observed in gallery 4 and 5- gallery of Universal Religions and galley of Asian trade routes. Some interesting holy books from Jainism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism are displayed  here. By this time, religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism had exerted its control on the hearts and minds of people.

As I walked into the 6th Gallery, Mediterranean to the Atlantic, I realized that it was the first time that the Americas were discovered by the Europeans, and contact with Amerindian cultures started during those Spanish and Portuguese expeditions. From 11th century onwards, exchanges increased among the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic world and Christian Europe, in spite of their rivalries and conflicts.

Cosmography, an Intersection section, was one of my favorite ones; these were some exciting times when strong-held beliefs, such as sun revolved around earth, were challenged. On the same lines, do you know when women got their voting rights in Switzerland (an advanced country); google it, and you will be surprised!

Another exciting thing that happened because of these inventions was that maritime expeditions kicked off in full throttle. Thanks to navigators such as Cristopher Columbus, Ibn Majid, Zheng He etc., that trade reached its pre-global levels.

I’ve always been fascinated by the dividers from Japan; this one with world map on it is enthralling.

In the 7th gallery, The World in Perspective, you will find a lot of renaissance paintings. Geometrical paintings from the Middle East were at its pinnacle in this era. Spread of mathematics and optics from Asia and Middle East to Europe ushered in an era of exponential discoveries and curiosity in arts.

This is a picture of a plate with a bust of a women, created in Venice around 1540; it shows that mixing of cultures is a continuous process. You can see how connection and trade between Asia and Europe had reached greater heights.

In this section, you will also find a Leonardo Da Vinci’s the La Belle Ferronniere, the portrait of a lady that he created in 1495- 1499 in Milan, Italy.

Spend some time admiring the mastery of this genius; look at the finesse with which he’s carved the details of the clothing and jewelry, and the depiction of subtle emotions.

The Magnificence of the Court gallery shows the sophistication and opulence of these times through  paintings, costumes and other structures. Pretty much all cultures around the world glorified their rulers. Rivalry between kings was evident as they hired the finest artists from different corners of the world to create their portraits.

We think that we live in an age of information technology and social media, where politicians and countries use them as propaganda machines; this section should help you comprehend that playing with the human brain through these techniques is an age old apparatus. This is evident as the rulers of these times heavily invested in making grand palaces, religious buildings, costumes and weaponry.

Check out the finer details of this portrait of Mehmed Said Pasha; can you see  the folds of his clothing and the patterns on the carpet? He hired Joseph Ahmed in France, in 1742, to create this lavish oil on canvas painting of him.

9th Gallery is called as A New Art of Living. As the affluent class became bigger and bigger in the latter part of 18th century, commodities reached other parts of the world. Affluent class all around the world focused on getting art created for their private spaces, for their families and themselves; individuality became a focal point, especially in Europe; even scholars, philosophers and merchants got their gloried portraits made.

Check out this portrait of Voltaire, a French writer and philosopher; it was made in 1718 by Nicolas De Largilliere.

As you move from 9th gallery into 10th, you will see a big painting of Napoleon Bonaparte, on a horse, crossing the Alps; look at the grandeur of this painting. Neoclassism was in full-bloom, and heroism was a key rallying point.

Industrial revolution started in Europe in 19th century, and it was instrumental in giving rise to colonial powers. 10th gallery is aptly named as A Modern World?, with a question mark. I smirked and questioned if we truly should call late 1800s and early 1900s as a modern time. Is it just materialistic opulence that makes you a rich person or do we need magnificence of our minds to free ourselves from the shackles of individuality, self-centeredness, egoism and stereotyping or a bit of both?

Artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh, created some fun versions of ladies enjoying a festival in Arles.

Van Gogh’s self-portrait is also hung in this section; next to it, you will find an interesting painting by James McNeill Whistler, “whistler’s Mother”. This painting made me think what women went through in Victorian era. As much as it oozes serenity, it also reveals the sadness and dreariness of lives of women during this era. In 1934, a stamp with this picture was published in U.S. to honor American mothers.

Photography, discovered in 19th century, revolutionized the way art was perceived. It not only became a form of art, but also a medium to circulate information.

11th Gallery, Challenging Modernity, is full of different ideas and thoughts. 20th century was a time to question all strongly held beliefs that came from west’s colonialism, industrialization and individual identity. Two world wars, decolonization, scientific inventions and fierce spread of globalization shook up world order and mindsets. This also helped artists to reinvent themselves, redefine boundaries of arts and look at things from new perspectives.

One of my favorite painting was “Bindu” by Sayed Haider Raza, made in 1986; although “Bindu” in Hindi means a dot/ point, “Bindi” is that dot that some Indian Women wear on their foreheads as a sign of being married (sure it is worn by a lot of people as a funky tattoo), but to Syed Raza, this black circle reminded him of his school teacher, who drew a dot on the blackboard and asked him to concentrate on it. What is your point or anchor of concentration? Can this represent our world?

World is a “A Global Stage” and you are just another actor; yes, that is name of the last gallery, the 12th one.

Some interesting art forms started to come up in our generation; no boundaries to pull us down is a mantra for our generation; artists use crystal, steel, utensils etc., and obviously Ai Weiwei’s exuberance comes out beautifully in “Fountain of Light”, which he created in 2016. The structure resembles the Tower of Babel- interesting version of it, right?

With Berlin wall down and with the advent of television and internet, our world became a place of self-introspection, collective identity and shared human condition as one species- Homo Sapiens.

As I walked from one gallery into another, I was inspired by some of the sayings on the windows; I’ll leave you with some of them…

2 thoughts on “Louvre Abu Dhabi”

  1. I was in Louvre Abu Dhabi myself, and it is a magnificent and unique museum in the Middle East. I am totally agree with the author, she did remarkable job to describe this collection of history artifacts. This is the place every one must visit once in a lifetime.
    Thank you very much Solowomentravelers.

    1. Thanks Nadir.

      Have you been to the grand mosque in Abu Dhabi?

      I’ll soon be writing blogs about a few central European countries; keep reading!

      Regards,

      Aiena.

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