The Louvre is to launch its new Islamic Galleries on 22 September. The galleries will provide a permanent home for the Museum’s unrivalled Collection of Islamic Art, the largest in France and one of the most important in the world. Over 2,500 objects, many of which have never been on public display before, will occupy a surface of nearly 3,000 square meters. The opening marks a key moment in the history of the Museum and is the first major architectural intervention since I.M. Pei’s glass Pyramid in 1989.
The objects on display have been drawn from the Museum’s own extensive collection consisting of some 15,000 pieces but also include 3,400 works on permanent loan from the Collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. The galleries will present the entire cultural breadth of the Islamic world, from Spain to India, between the seventh and nineteenth century.
The new Galleries, designed by architects Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti, will feature a striking contemporary glass pavilion on two levels, covered by a seemingly floating golden, iridescent steel roof. The Galleries will open up the Museum’s courtyard of the Cour Visconti to the public for the first time.
Conceived by architect and museographer Renaud Piérard, the interior design of the new galleries will enable visitors to contextualize the works on display, situate them historically and geographically, decipher motifs and figures, and even test their own conclusions against those of specialists.
Situated in the Cour Visconti the new galleries are surrounded by a redesigned exhibition space dedicated to “the East Mediterranean in the Roman Empire” that presents galleries of Late Antiquity from the eastern Mediterranean, including works from Roman and Coptic Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine. This context will give the visitor the opportunity to explore aspects of contrast and continuity between collections.
On the occasion of the opening of the new galleries and until spring 2013, the Louvre will host a Contemporary Festival of Islamic Arts, beginning on September 29th 2012 with an open-air concert by Youssou Ndour in front of the Pyramid.
Throughout the year the Museum will be hosting a rich programme of public events entitled “Cartes blanches”, a platform for the debate around Islamic art and culture which will bring together contemporary international artists from all disciplines. Confirmed participants include illustrious names such as Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, the Turkish writer and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, the choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Lebanese artist Walid Raad.
Furthermore, the festival will feature works by artists such as the French-Moroccan photographer Yto Barrada, the Franco-Libyan musician Ibrahim Maalouf and the Franco-Egyptian musician Khalil Chahine.