A Modern Agora


By Your Luxury

In 1910, Louis Cartier, grandson of the Maison’s founder, became a dedicated collector of precious objects from theMiddle East after Islamic art caught his eye and piqued his interest. His brother, Jacques Cartier, regularly travelled to meet the brand’s clientele in the region, and he developed a similar fascination. It’s said that Jacques’ exploration of The Gulf marked the beginning of a cultural bridge of inspiration that still inspires the brand today.

Building on that bridge, an exhibition titled Cartier, Islamic Inspiration and Modern Design opened late last year at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, showcasing the impact of Islamic arts and culture on the design evolution of Cartier’s New Horizons collection. Again, this year, as only dialogue can, the fourth edition of Cartier’s Art Dialogues series further fortified this intercultural bridge, and we had the pleasure of travelling to Abu Dhabi to attend. Taking place at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the heart of the Saadiyat Cultural District, the theme of the talks – The Museum: A Modern Agora – crafted a neat connection between design and Islamic culture, guiding multiple conversations that explore the concept of museums and the architecture of cultural communities.

Leading museum experts, architects, and artists lent their voices to this edition of Cartier Art Dialogues, which was separated into two panel discussions. The opening panel featured world-renowned architects Elizabeth Diller and Hala Wardé, as well as Laurence des Cars, president-director of the Louvre in Paris. Considering the transformation of museums over the first quarter of the 21st century, they put into dialogue their extensive experience and perspectives on subjects ranging from design choices to institutional decisions and today’s challenges facing museums. Panel moderatorRashid Bin Shabib pointed out that “museums hold more than treasures, they are cultural spaces of dialogue and learning,” in his introduction of the talk titledArchitecture, Museums andSpace: From Context to Concept.

This conversation focused on an appreciation of the museum as a site that stills the ephemeral nature of virtual content. “Talking about virtuality, nothing can replace the place,” said French, Beirut-born architect Hala, wh0 notably directed the development of the Louvre Abu Dhabi from conception to completion. She highlighted how architecture binds the varying influences and materials of a place, offering a permanent site that reflects the consciousness of the culture and people. The second panel discussion brought together four leading voices within the contemporary art scene to examine the museum site, its role as an agora, and a place of inspiration for artistic creativity.

Film director and actress Nadine Labaki, choreographer, dancer, and film director Blanca Li, as well as pluridisciplinary artists Subodh Gupta and Sophie Calle went deep into the topic, with Maisa Al Qassimi, acting project director of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, as moderator. In surmising the power of architecture, Subodh recalled that while growing up in Bahar in Northeast India, his school was situated right behind the Patna Sangrahalaya Museum. Not many people visited the museum, so he would find solace there to sit and sketch. Years later, the government of Bahar decided to open a new museum and invited world-renowned architects to inform the thought around its design. Subodh says, “It will surprise you that there are more than a thousand people visiting the museum every day, and these are average people coming from the villages and towns.

Interestingly, the same artwork I was looking at in my childhood is now presented in a very different way. It is, therefore, very important to have a good architect to create the museum because it’s not just the artefact telling you the history, it’s also the way it’s presented, kept and the atmosphere around it that tells you to respect the art, respect the artist and respect the community and contemporary society around it.”

Similarly, seeing the artefacts first-hand in Cartier’s exhibition, as well as the jewellery and objet d’arts from the New Horizon collection with their geometric shapes fused with strong colour contrasts in a museum setting, the influence of culture, region, and architecture was artfully mirrored by the Maison renowned for its creative curiosity.

All conversations can be accessed at artdialogues.cartier.com


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