A selection of 160 works from the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), the Louvre, Musée des arts et métiers, Château de Versailles and Centre Pompidou explore the representation of the world over the last 2,500 years. Featuring over 40 globes or spheres, rare archaeological remains, scripts, astrolabes and world maps, Globes: Visions of the World is the result of the curatorial efforts of Catherine Hofmann, chief curator at BnF, and François Nawrocki, chief curator and deputy director at Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris. “This exhibition offers an exceptional opportunity to construct a comprehensive narrative linking astronomy, geography, religion and philosophy, by examining different symbols and representations of the Earth. In this way it fits perfectly within the ethos of Louvre Abu Dhabi – to narrate the story of mankind,” says Manuel Rabaté, director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, where the exhibition is currently on.
The curators have arranged the exhibition chronologically, using the pieces to tell extraordinary stories that represent humanity’s quest to understand and represent the world. “With Globes: Visions of the World, we tell a meaningful long-term story about the spherical visions of the universe, which have been enriched and evolved over time, integrating the legacy of many scholars and cultures over the world,” they share. “It demonstrates the shared influences between the East and the West across time with a highlight on the fundamental contributions of the Arab science, at the confluence of civilisations. That's why we are particularly pleased and proud to present it here, at Louvre Abu Dhabi, in this innovative and universal museum of art, history and science.”
The objects span centuries and geographies, and are accompanied by copious historical information and context. One section of the exhibition however, is dedicated to spheres in the Islamic world from the 8th until the 15th centuries, the golden age for Islamic astronomers. “Among the precious globes and spheres on display, visitors can discover the oldest celestial globe from the Islamic world – which dates back to the 11th century – but also one of the earliest known Arabic astrolabes, a two-dimensional representation of the sky early developed by Muslim scholars,” say the curators. “Rare manuscripts on display explain how it is through the Islamic world that the knowledge from Antiquity was passed to the Christian West, enriched with the knowledge of Persian and Arab astronomers.”
While the exhibition focuses on objects from history, there is also a newly commissioned work by Jean-Luc and Patricia Boivineau inspired by constellations in Abu Dhabi’s winter sky; a Johann Lurf film screening on 18 May featuring the Austrian filmmaker’s conceptual compilation of the night sky as seen throughout cinematic practice; as well as family workshops exploring maps running every Saturday until 2 June. “Through history we discover our common influences, common links, common heritage and therefore our common humanity,” says Rabaté. “New perspectives continue to surprise us and make us humble: history is reflective, in that it shows us who we are.”
With the BnF at the helm of the curatorial vision, and in collaboration with the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s pursuit of knowledge, this exploration of the representation of the world adopts myriad programming to show though separated by time, how mankind is linked by geography, art and science.