Islamic Wing Opens at Louvre in Paris

Posted September 22nd, 2012 at 1:10 pm (UTC-5)
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One of the world's best-known museums is opening a wing dedicated to Islamic art, its first major addition in a generation.

The Louvre in Paris opened its Islamic wing Saturday, featuring thousands of Islamic artifacts dating from the 7th to the 19th century. The artifacts come from around the world, demonstrating the breadth of Islamic culture and its designs.

A long, undulating, gold-sheened roof shelters the ground-floor and underground galleries, where some 3,000 artifacts — scrolls, books, ceramics, glassware, and metalware — are on display. The design of the wing has caused some controversy, as a modern addition to a centuries-old former royal palace.

The Islam branch has been in the works for at least a decade, with funding from the French government, as well as contributions from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco, Kuwait, and Azerbaijan.

The public opening of the gallery comes at a time when tensions between Muslims and Western cultures are running high. Museum officials say they hope the new gallery can serve as a bridge between cultures, fostering more understanding between East and West.

The last major addition to the Louvre was in 1989, a transparent pyramid by famed architect I.M. Pei. His radical design fashioned an airy new entrance to the museum.

Traditionalists balked, but eventually the starkly modern pyramid has become a familiar and, in some cases, beloved part of the historic building.