Abu Dhabi: 10,000 Years Of Luxury

What is luxury? Can it be explained in words or in kind? Does it exist as a concept, an abstract thought or as an actual object? What makes something luxurious? Where did luxury come from? Where is luxury headed to?

These are many questions that pop up whenever we think luxury as a whole and over the years, many have been unable to find an answer to these load of luxuriously rich questions. 

To that effect, a show has been put together in Abu Dhabi at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, with an exhibition which is in partnership with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and curated by that museum’s director, Olivier Gabet with the theme of the show as “10,000 Years of Luxury.”

With about 350 objects that cut across various civilisations’ definition of beauty and value, the exhibition attempts to showcase in form and to call to the mind of those in attendance an internal reflection from their observances as to what luxury really is now from what it was before, and what it might later become, as the museum’s director himself says, “No concrete definition for luxury is offered by this show, instead, our intention is to make visitors continually explore and reassess accepted wisdom around what luxury represents by showing them varying interpretations across the ages. It is about helping them develop their own ideas.”

With many luxury brands and enterprises using the medium of arts and culture to express their products by sponsoring exhibitions, it is only fitting that the idea of understanding the meaning of luxury would be carried out through a museum exhibition sponsored by Tryano which considers itself as the only luxury shopping mall in Abu Dhabi.

The exhibition features artefacts and objects that have a thematic and chronological frameworks all divided into sections all around the museum each representing time and beauty alongside giving a mindset of what luxury could be seen as in such an era while as well juxtaposing each era’s representation with the other as a means of showing how the definition and notion of luxury has evolved over time up until what we have today. 

As first off in the exhibition is a single pink pearl, found on an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi and said to be the oldest known natural pearl in the world. Far off we find a section dedicated to ancient world displaying treasures and artifacts such as the 2,000-year-old silver Boscoreale Treasure tableware found near Pompeii, next to combs, earrings and spice jars. 

Through the exhibition, a room dedicated to Asian luxury and beauty is encountered with artefacts and articles such as a Chinese gilded enamel on copper statue of the mythical creature called a qilin, silk jackets and a headdress of kingfisher feathers as well as Japanese earthenware.

Further into the exhibition the influence of the ‘industrial revolution’ is displayed and felt on the notion of what luxury was gradually becoming. The largest part of the exhibition which takes place in the largest room of the Louvre Abu Dhabi has Paris represented as the home of world luxury with displays such as the 19th-century orange silk dress with white feathers created by Charles Frederick Worth, the English-born, Paris-based designer amongst others. 

Asides from a room filled with the present generation of brand products of what we today know as luxury with brand names such as Louis Vuitton, there is also in another section of the exhibition an hourglass, designed by the artist Marc Newson, sits in front of a vast window overlooking a vista of the sparkling Arabian Sea which indirectly points to the role of time in the make up of what mankind views and makes of luxury. 

Amongst the many other things present in the exhibition is a temporary art installation, called “Unidentified Scented Object,” devised by the jewelry maison Cartier and constructed on a floating platform on one of the water channels that lap at the whitewashed museum steps displaying the notion of luxury in scents. 

Definitely with so much to admire and appreciate, the definition of luxury therefore becomes a thing of the person’s understanding of what it used to be mixed with their anticipation of what luxury might become in the incoming future. 

So to you, what is luxury?