Louvre opens long-awaited Islamic Wing

News Agencies – September 20, 2012

 

France’s Louvre Museum is unveiling a new wing devoted to Islamic art, with the long-gestating project debuting during a period of increased tension with the Muslim community over a French publication’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Louvre’s new addition, which cost nearly 100 million euros (about $127 million Cdn) is its biggest project since the famed Parisian art museum unveiled its I.M. Pei-designed, now-iconic glass pyramid in 1988. The dragonfly-shaped new galleries will showcase a rotating display of artifacts from the Louvre’s collection of Islamic art, which includes pieces dating from as far back as the 7th century.

The museum first opened its Islamic art department in 2003, during the tenure of former French president Jacques Chirac, who urged a “dialogue of cultures” to break down walls between religions. France is home to more than four million Muslims, western Europe’s largest Muslim population.

However, an expansion was necessary because the Louvre did not have enough space to display what has grown to become a vast collection of Islamic art, including treasures donated by King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the foundation of Saudi Prince Waleed Bin Talal.

 

Louvre’s Islamic art building is ready to fly

The Los Angeles Times – September 1, 2012

 

The Louvre’s new wing for the department of Islamic art undulates like molten gold. For the museum’s enlarged, 18,000-piece treasure trove of Islamic art, opening Sept. 22, architects Mario Bellini from Italy and Rudy Ricciotti from France used the latest in computer technology to create what is the most significant, innovative architectural expansion project to the museum since I.M. Pei shook up the institution with his glass pyramid in 1989. The building is a much more intimate addition, tucked into the folds of the sprawling monument (822 years old in some parts) and is not clearly visible from the street.

With its new structure and its expanded and restored collection, from which more than 2,500 works will be displayed, the museum says it hopes to “seduce” visitors into learning more about Islamic arts. In the process, the institution has stated a rather more ambitious goal for the $98.5-million-euro project ($123.8 million): to correct common “misconceptions” associated with the Islamic world and “bridge” cultural gaps that can lead to conflict.

The new wing will unveil never-before-shown precious works from the 7th to the 19th centuries, stretching from Spain to India, including pieces drawn from the Louvre’s collection of some 15,000 pieces, plus 3,400 other works on permanent loan from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Funders include Saudi Prince Waleed bin Talal’s Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation; King Mohammed VI of Morocco; Sheikh Sabah al Ahmed al Jabbar al Sabah, the emir of Kuwait; Kaboos ibn Said, sultan of Oman; and the republic of Azerbaijan.

Art Review: Getting to the Bottom of ‘Islamic Art’

NEW YORK — The West has a problem when dealing with the cultures of the lands that adhered to Islam over time. It begins with apprehending their differences, far greater than those that separate European nations.

On the museum scene, the meaningless label “Islamic art” is stuck to works visually and conceptually unrelated.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which ranks among the world’s four or five greatest institutions of its kind, the recently opened “Islamic department” unwittingly illustrates the confusion.

History’s Hands: Transporting visitors from Fifth Avenue to Fez

After 30 years, the Met museum has embarked on the most ambitious rethinking and rebuilding of its Islamic art galleries in its history, a $50 million endeavor. At the heart of those galleries, which will open in the fall after being closed six years, it dreamed of showcasing the defining feature of Moroccan and southern Spanish Islamic architecture: a medieval Maghrebi-Andalusian-style courtyard, which would function in much the same way such courtyards still do in the traditional houses and mosques of Marrakesh or Casablanca, as their physical and spiritual center.

With world attention focused on the Middle East, the courtyard has taken on an unforeseen importance for the museum; for the Kingdom of Morocco itself, which has followed the project closely; and for a constituency of Muslim scholars and supporters of the Met. They hope it will function not only as a placid chronological way station for people moving through more than a millennium of Islamic history, but also as a symbol, amid potent anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States and Europe, that aesthetic and intellectual commerce remains alive between Islam and the West.

Detroit Institute of Arts’ Islamic art gallery

DIA is opening its long-awaited section dedicated to the art of the Muslim world. 168 items are to show in the part of the country with the largest Arab population. Ancient pieces from Silk Road to India , Egypt and Spain are in the collection. The collection is organized in themes such as calligraphy and carpets. One of the most significant items in the collection is a Qur’an on a rare colored paper from Iran made for a royal commission.

Alternative Islamic artist/Harvard student Michael Muhammed Knight publishes book

American Muslim convert and Harvard Islamic studies graduate student Michael Muhammed Knight is an essayist, a novelist, and performance artist who embraces a rebellious, alternative interpretation of Islam. His mission? To “shed antiquated and retrograde seventh-century ideas and make Islam consistent with the liberations of the 21st century.”

In his work and his spirituality, he strives to separate himself from conservatives who view Islamic as a monolithic, uncompromising orthodoxy, a worldview he feels is linked to undemocratic governmental rule.

An account of his travels through the Muslim world, “Journey to the End of Islam” has been published. It profiles the diversity of practice in Islam while critiquing conservative values.

“I had chosen Islam because it was the religion of Malcolm X, a language of resistance against unjust power. But in Pakistan, Islam was the unjust power…Pakistan’s Islam was guilty of everything for which I rebelled against Reagan-Falwell Christianity in America.”

After a glimpse into Muslim cultures across the globe, Knight has a better understanding of its multiplicity. He also has faith in American freedom. “In a weird way, America can save Islam.”

Smithsonian Museum showcases Iranian Islamic art

About 5000 pieces comprise the Smithsonian Museum’s Islamic Art exhibit, representing the traditions of Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and more. The exhibition, running from Oct. 24-Jan 24, features 65 works of art from Istanbul, Paris, Geneva, and Berlin.

Each year, the museum honors one country and features a special exhibit in celebration of its art and culture. This year, the country is Iran.

“What we are trying to do is focus the attention on the arts and cultures of Iran,” says Massumeh Farhad, chief of Islamic art at the Freer and Sackler galleries.

The Smithsonian official denied any association between the focus on the Iranian culture and the ongoing political showdown between the two countries.

Farhad believes that showcasing a unique Islamic culture like Iran’s to Americans should always be apart from any political agendas.

“What we can do is to highlight the aspects of culture, regardless of what happens in politics.”

Barcelona exhibits Islamic art

An exhibit showcasing Islamic art, organized in collaboration with The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, has opened in Barcelona. The CaixaForum exhibition, titled “The Worlds of Islam” runs through January 2010 and showcases, for the first time in Barcelona, 190 pieces bound by “the common denominator of the Arabic language and Muslim religion”, QNA reports.

The exhibit travels to Barcelona from Madrid, where the pieces were seen by 160,000 people. It contains 190 objects spanning 1,400 years of history, “artistic markers of a world that stretches from ancient Al-Andalus to India”.

Islamic art on show at British Foreign and Commonwealth Office

A new exhibition of Islamic art and photography has gone on show in the historic Durbar Court at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The exhibition featured contemporary art and photography by British Muslim artists. Visitors to the Islamic art exhibition saw work by some of the UK’s leading Muslim artists. The show’s organiser said Ramadan is the perfect time of year to showcase Muslim talent.

Nazish Jalini, who helped arrange the event said the idea struck her as she tried to start a Muslim social network and thought that during Ramadan would be the ideal time to showcase Muslim talent through art. Speaking at the launch of the exhibition was Imran Daud, whose company Elevation Arts represents some of the UK’s finest up and coming artistic talent:

“I think this is an important exhibition because you need to showcase Islamic art, it’s an emerging art form, it’s something that we need today in order to be able to speak to wider communities, to bridge the gap, there’s a lot of forces out there who seek to polarize and cause divisions between communities and I think art is one of those things that is used to transcend normal modes of communication it brings out things that are deeper and underlying issues that you might like to express in a way that is not hostile.”