Abu Dhabi: The Abu Dhabi Pearl, the oldest known pearl in the world, will be on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi from Wednesday.
The pearl, which dates back to between 5,800 and 5,600 BCE, is the centrepiece of the new temporary international exhibition at the museum, entitled ‘10,000 Years of Luxury’. Running until February 18, 2020, the exhibit delves into the concept of luxury in a display of 350 different pieces, ranging from precious jewellery and ancient artefacts to haute couture. It is being organised in collaboration with Paris-based art conservation institution, Musee des Arts Decoratifs.
“Like it or not, luxury is today a common language between cultures, with people across the world instantly identifying fashion labels and pieces. Louvre Abu Dhabi, as a universal museum, invites us to explore this concept, and the one thousand and one faces of luxury,” Olivier Gabet, curator of the exhibition and director of the Musee des Arts Decortifs, told Gulf News following a press preview on Sunday.
Visitors to the exhibition will first encounter the Abu Dhabi Pearl, which was found on a Neolithic site on Marawah Island in 2017. Treated as the earliest known evidence of pearling, the pretty pink pearl is tiny, yet museum goers spend quite a long minute taking it in.
“The UAE may be a young nation but it is built on a long history of settlement in the area, as shown by the discovery of this pearl,” Gabet said.
The pearl is placed next to a majestic pearl and emerald necklace crafted in the traditional Indian Satlanda style. Made in 1880, it was famously presented to Egyptian singing maestro Umm Kulthum by the UAE’s founding father, Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Examples of wealth in the past
Across from these two is a collection of items that have depicted wealth through the ages, including an ancient Roman bust of Athena, a massive pair of gold earrings from Mali, a bronze Chinese goblet, and a gold bracelet traced to ancient Iran.
The next room features a collection of objects from across the world, and many are of Egyptian origin, including wooden figurines and cosmetic spoons. Pieces of a dinner service from the Italian Town of Pompeo stands out, their intricate details preserved in pristine condition by volcanic ashes.
A handsome Mamluk carpet placed next to a 14th gold ring and ivory mirror case serve to show that luxury is encapsulated in items both massive and miniscule.
The luxury of food and social etiquettes of the wealthy are highlighted, as is the once-rare wealth that allowed people to own books and glassware.
Increasingly, the exhibition gives way to the dispersion of luxury among a growing upper class, focussing on exquisite examples of everyday items like clothing and furniture.
An orange evening gown symbolises the first examples of haute couture by Paris-based designer, Charles Frederick Worth, and Coco Chanel’s little black dress is also featured in a glass case.
That luxury is also the ability to travel or to own precious jewellery is on display in the form of a 20th century Louis Vuitton shoe trunk and a Cartier tiara.
The final halls feature the signs of wealth we know today, from Dior and Chanel dresses to Louboutin shoes and Van Cleef and Arpels jewellery. But just before one steps out, a beautiful hour glass symbolises the luxury of time, and a text questions how much of this true luxury any of us really has.
Offering a unique experience, fashion house Cartier has set up a temporary installation at the Louvre Abu Dhabi that is designed to give visitors a chance to ‘smell art’. The Perfumed Cloud is essentially a glass structure with an artificially created cloud of perfume, and visitors who step into the enclosure walk up a flight of stairs, passing through the cloud.
Creators said that perfume is Cartier’s L’envol scent. This Gulf News reporter found that the fragrance smelled different on the way up and on the way down. Coupled with views of the museum and the Arabian waters, it definitely was an experience.