Exhibition: 10,000 YEARS OF LUXURY at Louvre Abu Dhabi

Dress in two parts © MAD, Paris - Jean Tholance

What is, and what was luxury? This story celebrates a world history of the lavish and the luxurious through 350 extraordinary objects  – fashion, jewellery, art, furniture, design and more

Louvre Abu Dhabi will present 10,000 Years of Luxury, a ground-breaking exhibition that explores the history of luxury for the first time in the Middle East. Organised by Louvre Abu Dhabi, Musée des Arts Décoratifs and Agence France-Muséums, this exhibition, which will open on October 30, 2019, features approximately 350 objects including fashion, jewellery, visual art, furniture and design, and explores how luxury has been defined by diverse cultures from Antiquity to the present day. 10,000 Years of Luxury is sponsored by Tryano, the only luxury department store in Abu Dhabi.

In this exhibition, we are exploring humanity’s connection to luxury across time and cultures, taking a long lens on the subject from ancient treasures to present day haute couture. This approach is consistent with Louvre Abu Dhabi’s universal narrative, which is part of our DNA. We are grateful to our main partner Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the many institutions, including haute couture icons, who have contributed exceptional pieces to this wonderful story of luxury.

Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi
Inlaid bracelet © RMN_Grand Palais (musée du Louvre), Stéphane Maréchalle

The curator: Olivier Gabet

Curated by Olivier Gabet, Director of Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the exhibition draws primarily from the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and other French, international and local institutions. It also displays works from Louvre Abu Dhabi’s collection and offers a rare chance to revel in and evaluate our ever-changing fascination with luxury.

Luxury is everywhere in our world today – surrounding us in objects, images, and language. This exhibition gathers rare artefacts kept in French National Collections, but also precious archaeological pieces recently unveiled in Abu Dhabi. It will offer a new way of understanding the notion of luxury and its historical roots.

Olivier Gabet, Director of Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Cameo with mythological subject Bacchus and Ariadne © RMN_Grand Palais (musée du Louvre)


10,000 Years of Luxury exemplifies Louvre Abu Dhabi’s 2019/2020 season, Changing Societies, which focuses on how culture and creativity reflect major shifts in civilisations. The exhibition considers luxury as a vehicle for understanding the social, economic and political circumstances of a specific time period, as well as how notions of value have evolved throughout history.

This one-of a-kind exhibition examines the multi-faceted aspects of luxury that have fascinated humans throughout time, with a focus on the materials and techniques that define precious objects. We aim to challenge pre-conceived notions of luxury and offer new perspectives on this ever-changing concept.

Dr. Souraya Noujaim, Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director at Louvre Abu Dhabi
Soup Tureen © MAD, Paris – Jean Tholance

The exhibition

The exhibition will present concepts of luxury from ancient civilisations and their worship of the gods, to the exquisite finery of the 18th century, to the Industrial Revolution and its impact on the mass consumption of luxury goods. Each piece offers a different viewpoint on what defines luxury – be it time, craftsmanship or rarity. Works range from a Mamluk carpet from Egypt dating back to the 15th century to an hourglass by Australian designer Marc Newson. The luxury of fashion is highlighted with both vintage and contemporary creations by iconic fashion designers: Balenciaga, CHANEL, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Karl Lagerfeld, Azzedine Alaïa, Maison Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, Hermès and more.

Dress © Elie Saab

12 rooms

10,000 Years of Luxury will unfold across 12 rooms, beginning in antiquity and ending in the present day. Objects from the ancient empires of the Middle East and the Mediterranean chart early forms of luxury, which derived value from the cost and rarity of materials and signified specific social beliefs and customs. In the Middle Ages, luxury spread around the globe due to expanding trade routes and the development of new techniques.

Soup Tureen © MAD, Paris – Jean Tholance

Recreation of an 18th century Parisian boutique

The 17th and 18th centuries saw Paris take centre stage in the luxury market with the rise of decorative art dealers, known as marchand-mercier. Visitors will experience a recreation of an 18th century Parisian boutique, displaying the ingenious work of the marchand-mercier and the first forms of commercialised luxury.

Samovar © Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi Photo APF

What is luxury in 2019?

The paradox of luxury became particularly evident from the end of the 19th century with lavish objects from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, while in the 20th century luxury returns to a closer relationship with natural and simple materials and resources. The exhibition closes with the question: what is luxury in 2019? Moving away from the material and into the philosophical, the final section proposes that contemporary luxury is defined by time, space and freedom.

USO – The Perfumed Cloud

In tandem with 10,000 Years of Luxury, Louvre Abu Dhabi will present the olfactory art installation USO – The Perfumed Cloud (USO = Unidentified Scented Object). Created by Maison Cartier’s in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent with Transsolar KlimaEngineering, and curated by Juliette Singer, Chief Curator for modern and contemporary art at Louvre Abu Dhabi, the installation invites visitors to climb a spiral staircase to immerse themselves in a scented cloud.

Cultural programme

Inspired by this exhibition, Louvre Abu Dhabi will work with performers and artists to create priceless experiences defining luxury as experiences that money cannot buy. Curated by the internationally respected artistic director Ruth Mackenzie, CBE, the cultural programme will feature a series of intimate mini concerts around the museum, offering a close-up unforgettable musical experience. A World Premiere of digital interactive snow globes will also give the public the chance to activate a snowstorm.

The programme will offer a talk on 10,000 Years of Luxury by Olivier Gabet, as well as a selection of film screenings chosen by Emirati artist Hind Mezaina.


Group guided tours and free mini tours are offered to explore the exhibition. Visitors can also tour the exhibition through a multimedia guide available in Arabic, English and French. A catalogue highlighting the various themes, sections and objects in the exhibition is available in three languages.

Lenders to the exhibition include: Musée des Arts Décoratifs de Paris; Musée du Louvre, Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac; Louvre Abu Dhabi; Zayed National Museum; Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris; La Fondation des Artistes; BACCARAT; Cartier Collection; Direction du patrimoine CHANEL; Collection Chaumet, Paris; Chloé Archive, Paris; Maison Christian Louboutin; Christian Dior Couture; ELIE SAAB; Givenchy; Maison Guerlain; Hermès; Hervé Van der Straeten; HG Timepiece – Switzerland; Mellerio; PIERRE HARDY; Maison Rabih Kayrouz; Maison Schiaparelli; Maison Van Cleef & Arpels; Victoire de Castellane, Fleurs d’excès collection; Studio YMER&MALTA.