Louvre Abu Dhabi, the world cultural institute being developed on the Saadiyat Island, announced that it has made the first major loan from its developing collection. The Head of Buddha, a 50-cm-high white marble sculpture, is a loan to France for the inaugural exhibition of the Centre Pompidou-Metz, on exhibit through 25 October 2010.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, will be the first universal museum to be built in the Arab world and has come to fruition as an intergovernmental agreement of cultural cooperation between Abu Dhabi and France; signed March 2007. The new institution is to be recognized as a symbol of excellence and universalism worldwide and is set to link to create a dialogue of cultural and educational exchange between Abu Dhabi and the world.

The Head of Buddha was featured in Abu Dhabi for the first time in 2009 in “Talking Art: Louvre Abu Dhabi,” a preview experience of Louvre Abu Dhabi and a presentation of the museum’s first acquisitions. These first acquisitions were supplemented by loaned works of art from a number of French museums, thus reflecting the collections to be presented by Louvre Abu Dhabi upon its opening. Scheduled for completion in 2013 Louvre Abu Dhabi will showcase the interrelationships among artistic achievements from different cultures around the world, from the most immemorial to the very latest, across borders of technique and geography. With works loaned by the Louvre and French museums, such as Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou, Musée Guimet and Musée du Quai Branly, and works of art from its own developing collection, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will establish a distinctive dialogue among fine arts, decorative arts, and archaeological artefacts that have been created and collected all over the world, in a presentation that is unique to this museum and its setting.

Head of Buddha was created during a period of disintegration in the Chinese Empire, when ephemeral dynasties rapidly succeeded each other in the north of China. Among these, the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534 AD) distinguished itself by promoting Buddhism as the official religion. This dynasty was followed by two periods that are known for their sculpture production: the Eastern Wei dynasty (534-550 AD) and the Northern Qi dynasty (550-577 AD). The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s sculpture belongs to the first wave of this development, when several Buddhist sanctuaries were set up in northern China in the 5th to 6th centuries.

While many works of Buddhist art from the Northern Qi period (550-577 AD) exist, there are very few sculptures similar to the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Head of Buddha in European or American public collections, particularly of such quality. Identifiable as a representation of Buddha by the knotted hairstyle (ushnisha) and the ears with elongated and pierced lobes, this marble sculpture is in very good condition despite being a fragment of what was originally a larger work.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Head of Buddha is one of 800 works in the Centre Pompidou-Metz exhibition “Masterpieces” which illustrates how the concept of the masterpiece has evolved over the centuries.

Work on Loan
Head of Buddha
Eastern Wei dynasty (534-550 AD) or Northern Qi dynasty (550-577 AD)
White marble
North China (from Henan to Shandong)
Dimensions: 50 cm high
Collection: Louvre Abu Dhabi