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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

British Museum renames gallery after Sheikh Zayed 

Deal also signed on loans for forthcoming Zayed National Museum
Gallery 51 in the British Museum has been renamed the “Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Gallery for Europe and the Middle East”. Niklas Halle'n / AFP

The British Museum is to name one of its prestigious galleries after the Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed.

Gallery 51, which shows how the arrival of farming transformed life in Europe, will be renamed the “Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Gallery for Europe and the Middle East”.

The Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi and the museum also agreed on Wednesday to develop a loan framework that will see objects from the UK institution exhibited at the Zayed National Museum. These pieces will complement the museum’s permanent collection when it opens on Saadiyat Island.

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of the DCT, said the renaming of the gallery in the Year of Zayed was fitting tribute to the late President.

“The renaming of this gallery, one that explores the history and heritage of the Middle East, and the lasting impact that an industry can have on the world, highlights the significant role that Sheikh Zayed played in the preservation and protection of our unique cultural heritage,” he said at the ceremony in London on Wednesday.

Saif Ghobash, Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi, Sir Richard Lambert, Chairman of the Trustees of the British Museum, Sulaiman Al Mazroui, UAE Ambassador to the UK, Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi and Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum. Courtesy The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi

“We are delighted to build on our long history of collaboration with the British Museum as part of DCT Abu Dhabi’s mission to establish lasting cultural partnerships with leading institutions worldwide.”

Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, said it was honoured by the renaming.

“This gallery shows the impact of the introduction of farming in the Middle East and its spread to Europe, thereby shaping the modern world,” he said.

“This support is a reflection of the long-standing collaborative relationship we share with DCT Abu Dhabi and is all the more significant in this important year for the UAE.”

Sheikh Zayed was committed to agriculture as way to sustainably transform the UAE and this dedication honours that. The late president also supported the first archaeological excavations in the UAE more than 50 years ago.

Gallery 51 has been renamed after the UAE's Founding Father. Courtesy British Museum

There has been a long relationship between Abu Dhabi and the British Museum, particularly over the planned Zayed National Museum.

The UK institution had previously provided specialists and staged three exhibitions in Abu Dhabi featuring items from its eight-million strong collection.

The Zayed museum, designed by architect Norman Foster, was initially to open several years ago as the centrepiece of the Saadiyat cultural district but has been delayed. It aims to tell the story of the UAE through the life and achievements of Sheikh Zayed, the story of unification, the history of the region, and its cultural connections across the globe. Construction contracts for the Zayed museum and its neighbour, the Guggenheim have yet to be awarded but Louvre Abu Dhabi opened on Saadiyat on November 11.

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The renamed gallery, meanwhile, explores how farming began in the Middle East close to 12,000 years ago and then arrived in Britain. It ushered in social, cultural and economic change with people now showcasing their status through weapons, jewellery and artefacts. The objects on display show how the people of prehistoric Europe celebrated life and death and expressed their relationship with the natural world. People who visit can view shields, swords and farming implements. Other artefacts ranging from 10,000 to 800BC shed light on the practice of feasting, which was a type of social gathering held by powerful people that aimed to reinforce loyalty.

The British Museum was founded in 1753 and it attracts about six million visitors a year. Among the museum’s other standout pieces are the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon at Athens, the Rosetta Stone, which unlocked Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese ceramics from the Ming dynasties.