Abu Dhabi: An ongoing exhibition at the Louvre Abu Dhabi that traces the history of paper through the ages provides a unique insight into human development itself.
The ‘Stories of Paper’ exhibition, which goes beyond the various forms and qualities of paper, its contribution and role in human lives, has been organised in collaboration with the Paris-based Louvre Museum, and other French museums and cultural institutions. The temporary exhibition, which includes 100 artworks, manuscripts, objects and installations, will run till July 24.
“It’s entirely appropriate that paper should be the subject of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s second exhibition of 2022, exploring a single medium and the specific techniques that encompass it. We are therefore looking at the universality of a material for the first time. The history of paper, an invention that transcended geography in its journey from East to West while transforming cultures and societies in the process, exemplifies the stories of cultural interaction and intellectual exchange that the museum is committed to examining,” said Manuel Rabate, director at Louvre Abu Dhabi.
The exhibition is split into 12 areas, each highlighting a specific quality of paper — from its affordability to its flexibility and ubiquity. A serpentine paper banner marks all the major milestones in the development of the medium, highlighting the introduction of coloured paper and its journey to Arabia. The exhibition thus allows visitors to understand the tools and mechanisms used to create paper, while inviting the audience to explore different paper material through the mediation devices.
“If there is one material that is for the common good of human race, it is most certainly paper. Paper was invented in China around 200 B.C. and rapidly made its way to Korea and Japan and then eventually along the Silk Road. From there, the Islamic world absorbed this material and stretched its use across the Middle East and along the coasts of the Mediterranean. Years later, in the 11th century, the first paper mills were documented in Al Andalus. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the advancement of mass paper Japanese woodblock art in production took place in Italy and France and the demand for paper grew expeditiously worldwide. ‘Stories of Paper’ seeks to explain why paper, a common yet precious good, was quickly adopted and sought after by cultures from every part of the world,” said Xavier Salmon, general curator and director of the Department of Drawings and Prints at the Louvre Museum.
Highlights of the exhibition include a selection of artworks from Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection, including Pablo Picasso’s ‘Portrait of a Woman’, 1928, two Japanese woodblock prints by artist Katsushika Hokusai, and a 13th-century Double page from ‘De Materia Medica’. International lenders have also lent some outstanding pieces, including a 1795 panorama on 17 panels of Carmontelle’s ‘Figures Walking in a Parkland’, a 19th-century manuscript folded in the manner of a screen from Burma, and a Quran written in fingernail calligraphy.
There are also a number of notable artworks from Emirati and Middle Eastern artists. For instance, Hassan Sharif’s dictionary built with the pages of an English-Arabic dictionary, is imposing and unmissable, as is Dana Awartani’s ‘He Is Who Created The Heavens and Earth in Six Days’.
Visitors will also be able to view, in Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Lower Plaza, the ‘Labirinto e Grande Pozzo’ by Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto — an interactive contemporary installation in the form of a maze that explores movement as a key characteristic of paper.
“Working on this exhibition changed my understanding of paper as a medium and made me appreciate it so much more. In my opinion, visitors will gain a deeper appreciation of paper in our digital age and perhaps it will induce us to become more sustainable in the way we use the material,” Amna Al Zaabi, senior curatorial assistant at Louvre Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.
‘Stories of Paper’ has been curated by Xavier Salmon, general curator and director, and Victor Hundsbuckler, curator, at the Department of Drawings and Prints at Louvre Museum, with the support of Dr Souraya Noujaim, director of scientific, curatorial and collections management at Louvre Abu Dhabi.