Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum

About Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is a planned museum, to be located in Abu Dhabi, UAE. On July 8, 2006, the city of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, announced it had signed an agreement with the Guggenheim Foundation in New York to build a 30,000 square metres (320,000 sq ft) Guggenheim Museum. It will be the world’s largest Guggenheim. Frank Gehry is to design it, with completion expected between 2011 and 2012.

The museum will be located on Saadiyat Island, just offshore of the city of Abu Dhabi. Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District will house the largest single cluster of world-class cultural assets in Abu Dhabi. These will include: the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, to be designed by United Kingdom-based construction company Foster and Partners under the direction of Lord Norman Foster; the Louvre Abu Dhabi art museum designed by Jean Nouvel ; a performing arts centre designed by Zaha Hadid; a maritime museum with concept design by Tadao Ando and a number of arts pavilions. Guggenheim director Thomas Krens indicated that “The Middle East is one of the world’s most important emerging regions in terms of contemporary culture.”

The total area of the museum will be 30,000 square metres (320,000 sq ft), making it the largest Guggenheim in the world. The permanent artwork collection will occupy a total area of 9,474 square metres (101,980 sq ft). The special exhibitions will be allocated 3,395 square metres (36,540 sq ft), and the proposed education centre will have a total area of 513 square metres (5,520 sq ft). The rest of the museum will be over an area of 16,618 square metres (178,870 sq ft).

The museum will form its own major collection of contemporary art and will also exhibit masterworks from the Guggenheim Foundation’s global collections. All works to go on display at the museum will “respect Abu Dhabi’s culture and national and Islamic heritage,” the foundation said in a statement. “Our objective is not to be confrontational, but to be engaged in a cultural exchange,” said Thomas Krens when asked how the boldness of contemporary art can be reconciled with conservative Muslim values. “The Guggenheim implicitly regards all contemporary cultures and their traditions as potential partners in the field of aesthetic discourse – we are both respectful of difference and excited by it,” he said. “We also believe that the Middle East is one of the world’s most important emerging regions in terms of contemporary culture.”


Frank Gehry’s concept for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, which at 320,000 square feet (30,000 m2) will be the world’s largest Guggenheim museum, is designed to accommodate approximately 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2) of exhibition space. The installation will be four stories tall with multiple galleries stacked atop each other.

Gehry was inspired by the location and the intent, noting, “The landscape, the opportunity, the requirement, to build something that people all over the world would come to and the possible resource to accomplish it opened tracks that were not likely to be considered anywhere else. The site itself, virtually on the water or close to the water on all sides, in a desert landscape with the beautiful sea and the light quality of the place suggested some of the direction.” The crown prince said of Gehry’s work that “Just as Bilbao established a new level of design and excellence, Gehry’s Guggenheim Abu Dhabi design brief is to push the boundaries of his own architectural practice and set the benchmark for museums.”

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