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The first comprehensive exhibition on the history of luxury in the Middle East, showcasing approximately 350 objects from 30 countries and spanning several millennia

Louvre Abu Dhabi now presents 10,000 Years of Luxury, a ground-breaking exhibition that explores the history of luxury for the first time in the Middle East.

Organised by Louvre Abu Dhabi, Musée des Arts Décoratifs and Agence France-Muséums, this exhibition, which runs between October 30, 2019, until the 18th of February 2020, features approximately 350 objects including fashion, jewellery, visual art, furniture and design, and explores how luxury has been defined by diverse cultures from Antiquity to the present day. 10,000 Years of Luxury is sponsored by Tryano, the only luxury department store in Abu Dhabi.

Curated by Olivier Gabet, Director of Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the exhibition draws primarily from the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and other French, international and local institutions. It also displays works from Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection and offers a rare chance to revel in and evaluate our ever-changing fascination with luxury.

10,000 Years of Luxury exemplifies Louvre Abu Dhabi’s 2019/2020 season, Changing Societies, which focuses on how culture and creativity reflect major shifts in civilisations. The exhibition considers luxury as a vehicle for understanding the social, economic and political circumstances of a specific time period, as well as how notions of value have evolved throughout history.

Exploring luxury through fashion, jewellery, visual art, furniture and design with masterpieces from the collections of international institutions and brands

The exhibition presents concepts of luxury from ancient civilizations and their worship of the gods, to the exquisite finery of the 18th century, to the Industrial Revolution and its impact on the mass consumption of luxury goods.

Ten-leaved Screen Foxes Armand-Albert Rateau France, Paris, c. 1921–1922 Lacquered and gilded wood
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Gift of Prince Louis de Polignac, with the agreement of Yves Lanvin, in memory of Countess Jean de Polignac, daughter of Jeanne Lanvin, 1965 Photo credit: © MAD, Paris – Jean Tholance


Each piece offers a different viewpoint on what defines luxury – be it time, craftsmanship or rarity. Works range from a Mamluk carpet from Egypt dating back to the 15th century to an hourglass by Australian designer Marc Newson.

Hourglass by Australian designer Marc Newson

The luxury of fashion is highlighted with both vintage and contemporary creations by iconic fashion designers: Balenciaga, CHANEL, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Karl Lagerfeld, Azzedine Alaïa, Maison Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, Hermès and more.

Contemporary fashion pieces include an organza evening dress by Karl Lagerfeld for CHANEL, horse riding accessories adorned in cockerel feathers by Hermès and an embroidered sequin gown from ELIE SAAB’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection. 

Dress ELIE SAAB France, Paris Haute couture, Spring/Summer 2019 collection Off shoulder dress in organza printed with vegetal motifs, embroidered shiny and matt parma sequins Paris, ELIE SAAB Haute Couture Photo credit: © ELIE SAAB


Dress made with feathers by Karl Lagerfeld

12 rooms to unfold this new exhibition, beginning in antiquity and ending in the present day

“Abu Dhabi Pearl” the oldest pearl in the world, dating back to c. 5,800 – 5,600 BCE, discovered on Marawah Island, Abu Dhabi in 2017

The exhibition opens with two landmark pieces illustrating the history of Abu Dhabi. “Abu Dhabi Pearl” the oldest pearl in the world, dating back to c. 5,800 – 5,600 BCE, discovered on Marawah Island, Abu Dhabi in 2017 and lent by the collection of Zayed National Museum; and an antique natural pearl necklace for Arab diva Umm Kulthum loaned from the collection of Zayed National Museum. “Abu Dhabi Pearl” is a proof that pearls and oysters were used in the UAE nearly 8,000 years ago and represents the earliest known evidence for pearling found anywhere in the world.

Objects from the ancient empires of the Middle East and the Mediterranean chart early forms of luxury, which derived value from the cost and rarity of materials and signified specific social beliefs and customs.

Inlaid bracelet Found at the necropolis of Yahmur (Syria) 3rd century Gold, garnet, green fluorite, sapphire, amethyst, chalcedony and glass Paris, Musée du Louvre, Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, formerly De Clercq- Boisgelin collections, Bj 2229 Photo credit: © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Stéphane Maréchalle

Beginning their journey through the history of luxury in Antiquity, visitors find out that luxury objects were often characterised by their rarity, precious materials or skilful production, exemplified by an Egyptian gold Necklace with Fish Pendants (ca. 1550-1069 BCE) and a skilful Cameo Depicting Tiberius and Caligula probably produced in Rome between 31-37. A variety of typical luxury objects from this time are on display, including precious home décor as well as personal jewellery.

In the Middle Ages, luxury spread around the globe due to expanding trade routes and the development of new techniques.

The 17th and 18th centuries saw Paris take centre stage in the luxury market with the rise of decorative art dealers, known as marchands-mercier.

Visitors will experience a recreation of an 18th century Parisian boutique, displaying the ingenious work of the marchands-mercier and the first forms of commercialised luxury.

Cameo with mythological subject: Bacchus and Ariadne Rome Julio-Claudian period (41-45, Tablet); imperial period (1st – 4th centuries, other glyptic pieces) and 1780 (reconstructed by Luigi Valadier) Onyx marble, semi-precious stones, marble, gold, gilt bronze, enamel, glass paste


The paradox of luxury became particularly evident from the end of the 19th century with lavish objects from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, while in the 20th-century luxury returns to a closer relationship with natural and simple materials and resources.

The exhibition closes with the question: what is luxury in 2019? Moving away from the material and into the philosophical, the final section proposes that contemporary luxury is defined by time, space and freedom.


The olfactory art installation USO* – The Perfumed Cloud is a very unique sensual and sensory experience you must absolutely try.

In tandem with 10,000 Years of Luxury, Louvre Abu Dhabi presents the olfactory art installation USO – The Perfumed Cloud (USO = Unidentified Scented Object).

Created by Maison Cartier’s in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent with Transsolar KlimaEngineering, and curated by Juliette Singer, Chief Curator for modern and contemporary art at Louvre Abu Dhabi, the installation invites visitors to climb a spiral staircase to immerse themselves in a “L’Envol”* scented cloud. Just magical!

* L’Envol is a perfume inspired by ambrosia/mead and rounded with honey notes and balmy facets that Mathilde Laurent created in 2016 for Maison Cartier.

Maison Cartier’s in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent

What they say about this exhibition

Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, stated: “In this exhibition, we are exploring humanity’s connection to luxury across time and cultures, taking a long lens on the subject from ancient treasures to present-day haute couture. This approach is consistent with Louvre Abu Dhabi’s universal narrative, which is part of our DNA. We are grateful to our main partner Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the many institutions, including haute couture icons, who have contributed exceptional pieces to this wonderful story of luxury.”

Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director at Louvre Abu Dhabi, added: “This one-of a-kind exhibition examines the multi-faceted aspects of luxury that have fascinated humans throughout time, with a focus on the materials and techniques that define precious objects. We aim to challenge pre-conceived notions of luxury and offer new perspectives on this ever-changing concept.”

Olivier Gabet, Director of Musée des Arts Décoratifs, added: “Luxury is everywhere in our world today – surrounding us in objects, images, and language. This exhibition gathers rare artefacts kept in French National Collections, but also precious archaeological pieces recently unveiled in Abu Dhabi. It will offer a new way of understanding the notion of luxury and its historical roots.”

Commenting on the sponsorship of the exhibition, Sharmila Murat, General Manager of Tryano, said: “We are incredibly fortunate to partner with Louvre Abu Dhabi, where world-class art, architecture and now fashion will intersect at the 10,000 Years of Luxury exhibition. Tryano is proud to show support to the art communities in Abu Dhabi as an official sponsor of the exhibit, and we will have exciting activities throughout the AW19 season as part of our collaboration with Louvre Abu Dhabi.”

Inspired by this exhibition, Louvre Abu Dhabi work with performers and artists to create priceless experiences defining luxury as experiences that money cannot buy.

Curated by the internationally respected artistic director Ruth Mackenzie, CBE, the cultural programme features a series of intimate mini-concerts around the museum, offering a close-up unforgettable musical experience.

Centered around creating rare experiences that “money can’t buy”, the programme will feature pop-up performances by international artists, musicians and dancers. On view from 6 to 9 November, these surprise performances will offer visitors a unique personal encounter with world-renowned artists set against the backdrop of the exhibition and Louvre Abu Dhabi’s permanent collection and outdoor spaces. Performers include the L.A. Dance Project led by French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, Moroccan singer and actress Hindi Zahra, Emirati jazz and pop singer Hamdan Al Abri, the Chinese musician Wang Li and classical music quartet Quatuor Diotima, among others.

Two talks will explore objects and themes highlighted in 10,000 Years of Luxury.

On 29 October, curator Olivier Gabet will discuss the exhibition, which celebrates a world history of the lavish and the luxurious. Dr. Mark Beech, Head of Archaeology for Al Dhafra and Abu Dhabi at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, will give a talk on the discovery of the Abu Dhabi Pearl on 26 November.

Dr. Beech’s talk will be accompanied by an excerpt from the new documentary series History of the Emirates, produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi.

In addition, there will be a virtual reality experience based on the series that will take viewers on an immersive journey through the lives of the Emirati forefathers and the history of the UAE.

Emirati artist Hind Mezaina has curated a series of films that feature luxury in the worlds of fashion and art, including Phantom Thread, an acclaimed biopic of Reynolds Woodcock; Academy-award winning musical The King and I; the classic 1960s rom-com How to Steal A Million, starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole; the documentary Time Thieves; and Have You Seen My Movie?, which features clips from 1,000+ films cut together to create a new cinema experience, directed by Paul Anton Smith. Artist Rinku Awtani will also present a programme of family films for all ages.

Digital Snow Globes

Finally, Louvre Abu Dhabi will premiere the interactive installation, Digital Snow Globes, from 12 December 2019 to 10 January 2020, which will bring a festive winter spirit to the museum with visitor-activated snowstorms surrounding life-sized reproductions of artworks from 10,000 Years of Luxury encased in snow globes.

Group guided tours and free mini-tours are offered to explore the exhibition.
Visitors can also tour the exhibition through a multimedia guide available in Arabic, English and French. A catalogue highlighting the various themes, sections and objects in the exhibition is available in three languages.

Lenders to the exhibition include:

Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris; Musée du Louvre, Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac; Louvre Abu Dhabi; Zayed National Museum; Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris; La Fondation des Artistes; BACCARAT; Cartier Collection; Direction du patrimoine CHANEL; Collection Chaumet, Paris; Chloé Archive, Paris; Maison Christian Louboutin; Christian Dior Couture; ELIE SAAB; Givenchy; Maison Guerlain; Hermès; Hervé Van der Straeten; HG Timepiece – Switzerland; Mellerio; PIERRE HARDY; Maison Rabih Kayrouz; Maison Schiaparelli; Maison Van Cleef & Arpels; Victoire de Castellane, Fleurs d’excès collection; Studio YMER&MALTA.

The dates to remember and practical information

© Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi. Photo: Ismail Noor/Seeing Things

10,000 Years of Luxury runs from 30 October 2019 to 18 February 2020.

  • Other exhibitions on view as part of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s 2019/2020 season include
    Rendezvous in Paris: Picasso, Chagall, Modigliani & Co. (1900-1939) (18 September – 7 December 2019),
  • Furusiyya: The Art of Chivalry between East and West (February 19, 2020 – May 30, 2020) and Charlie Chaplin: When Art Met Cinema (April 15, 2020 – July 11, 2020).

The visit of 10,000 Years of Luxury and USO – The Perfumed Cloud is free with the museum’s general admission ticket.

Pre-booking is highly advised due to the peak period.To book tickets, please visit www.louvreabudhabi.ae or call Louvre Abu Dhabi at +971 600 56 55 66. Admission is free for children under the age of 13.

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