Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

Designed to mark UAE’s opening towards contemporary art, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum is planned to become a landmark in the area. For this, the local authorities have contracted one of the world’s “starchitects”: Frank Gehry to design the establishment and L’Observatoire International, an award winning lightning design company to offer a splendid view over the building during nighttime.


The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum represents collaboration between the local authorities (mainly the Tourism Development and Investment Company) and the famous Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; a nonprofit organization specialized in collecting, preserving and exhibiting contemporary artwork. The foundation operates museums all over the world, including New York, Germany (Deutsche Guggenheim), Venice and Bilbao. Meant to become one of the numerous cultural establishments located on the Saadiyat Island, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is estimated to become the largest Guggenheim Museum in the world, with a considerable advance in front of all the other international branches.

The £17 billion investment is supported by the local authorities, who will own the building, while the Guggenheim Foundation will have the right to dispose of it and choose the artworks which will be exhibited inside. Furthermore, the foundation will have permanent exhibitions as well as temporary events, in accordance with its specific.

Design and Structure

Frank Gehry is a post-modernist architect with a daring vision and incredible perspective upon building concepts. The architect, which has also authored the Bilbao headquarters of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Museum, has the reputation of designing buildings which attract tourists solely on the basis of their aspect. Willingly or not, in Gehry’s works the looks outperform their purpose. Judging by the impressive computer-generated images representing the future museum, this will probably be the case with the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum too.

Inspired by the local towers and its famous covered courtyards, Frank Gehry created a complex structure spread on 30,000m2. The building expands around a traditional covered garden. Intricate forms remembering of the ancient wind-towers perform a double role: that of ventilating the establishment and impressing through their spectacular aspect. The traditional aspects have been fused with modern concepts and materials in order to create a building that will reflect Abu Dhabi’s rise from plain dessert to a highly sought for location.

Approximately 13,000 m2 have been assigned to permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions, thus ranking the museum first in the Cultural District, a cultural area which also includes a Louvre branch, a Maritime Museum and a Performing Arts Center. Apart from the space reserved for exhibitions, there are also spaces specially conceived for dance events, theatrical representations and educational manifestations with a focus on the Middle East contemporary art.

Artwork and Controversies at Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum is targeted towards the contemporary visual art from all over the world. However, a local twist will be preserved, since the authorities are willing to introduce more of the Middle East contemporary art to the public. Considered less shocking and more abiding to the local rules and social realities, the Middle East art is considered more appealing to the local public.

However, there are voices claiming that this focus on local art is in fact a means of censorship. According to them, there are great chances that the local authorities will limit the exhibition of artworks considered inappropriate on the basis that the public is not ready to accept them. Therefore the acceptance of artwork in the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will be given on subjective criteria. Following the same line, some have even raised the question of suitability of such a museum in the Abu Dhabi society.

Schedule Release

The first news regarding the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum was first heard on July 8, 2006 when the local authorities announced the large project. The then established date of opening was scheduled for 2011. However, due to financial problems, the date was switched to 2013 and then to 2015. The 2016 has also been speculated for a period. The final date sets 2017 as the year of opening for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.


More information from the official website.

Picture (source: