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Islam Comes to the Louvre

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architecture history, Gallery,  art museum

In the 1980's, I.M. Pei created an international controversy when he added his very modern  glass pyramid to the Louvre, Paris's very old, very famous art museum.  Now, more than two decades since Pei's pyramid made architecture history, work has begun on what will be only the second major modern addition in the Louvre's history the Islam Gallery.  As the first stone was laid, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was on hand, along with Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a major contributor to the project.  The men marked the beginning of the project by using the occasion to call for a dialogue between the Middle East and the West

While Islam is currently at the center of plenty of worldwide controversy, the Islam Gallery has been received without much drama probably because it was designed to be, in the words of architect Rudy Ricciotti, "more intimate, less symbolic, less monumental," and will not alter the facades of the Louvre's 19th Century courtyard where it will be located.  The focal point of the project will include a shimmering glass wave suspended over the courtyard, designed to resemble a cloud or a flying carpet.  The wing, expected to open in 2010, will display Islamic art from the 7th to the 19th Century, including priceless manuscripts and carpets.  It will cost $100 million to complete.

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