Louvre prepares to open new wing for Islamic art
The Louvre museum in Paris is getting ready to unveil its largest architectural undertaking since its signature glass pyramids: a new wing dedicated entirely to Islamic art.
The 3,000 square metre, two level exhibition space will open on 22 September with nearly 3,000 works from the Louvre’s 15,000 piece Islamic art collection, known to be one of the most impressive in the world.
The pieces from the 8th to the 19th centuries will be housed under a giant sail-like roof made of glass and gold discs.
The architects, Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti, were inspired by a piece of silk, a reference to the Islamic headscarf.
Six years in the making, the new wing cost almost 100 million euros, funded mostly by donors such as the Saudi prince Al Waleed Bin Tala and King Mohammed VI of Morocco.
The new department will cover the entire cultural reach of the Islamic world, from Spain to India and beyond.
Many of the pieces will be shown in public for the first time.
“We are finally giving the civilisation of Islam the place it deserves within the Louvre’s collections,” Henri Loyrette, the director of the Louvre, told news agency AFP.
“It’s a recognition of the civilisation’s diversity and the role it played during its constant interactions with the Western world,” he added.
The Islamic art department’s director, Sophie Makariou, said the new wing has tripled the department’s exhibition space.
More importantly, the wing aims to change perceptions about Islamic culture.
“It’s about showing Islam with a capital ‘I’,” she said, pointing out the vast history of Islamic culture, and not just its religion, has had a huge influence on the history and development of European civilisation.
The new wing and its magnificent roof within the Visconti court of the museum will be visible from the wing that houses the Louvre’s other great acquisitions, including the Mona Lisa.
The French President, François Hollande, will inaugurate the wing on Tuesday before it officially opens to the public.