Ever since the much anticipated new wing of the Louvre opened, I’ve been excited to see the new space and discover the pieces of the museum’s collection that hadn’t been displayed before. The Islamic and Middle Eastern collections are some of the most inspiring to me for their rich decoration, vibrant colors, and fluid lines. Last Friday, after a fairly hectic week, we meet at the Louvre for a nocturne visit and headed straight for this new wing. Built into a previously unused inner court, the architecture is very modern, in the tradition of the I.M. Pei glass pyramids, but marries will with the existing structure, not competing with it. So entering the new wing is like stepping through the wardrobe into a completely different world. With 2 1/2 levels of space, there was much too much to see in one evening and it was fairly busy, with everyone interested in the new space.
The pieces on display vary widely, the theme of the collection itself covering a vast geographical and cultural area, and different areas are highlighted by themes such as writing (calligraphy being such an important decorative element in Islamic art), game objects, or tile work. These displays are complemented by touch screens that play fascinating videos in several languages, several 3D models that were created from key pieces for visitors to be able to touch the work with their own hands, and maps that glow from behind, the light moving to show the spread of an empire or culture. It was all very interesting and there is still so much for us to see but we did have just a few critiques: for one, the light is unusually low, even for light sensitive pieces, and the floor, walls, and displays are charcoal making it difficult to read even for R. and I who don’t have trouble reading. Also, almost all texts were presented in three languages but not Arabic. For a country with such a large Arabic population and tourist stream, I feel that it’s a miss not to offer the exhibit information in the major language of the culture whose work is being displayed.
Despite those things, the new wing is a space you should visit if you can. The work is beautiful (the above reproduction mosaic looks so contemporary to me yet it dates to between 705 and 715 A.D.!) and I know we’re both looking forward to going back to see even more. Here is a taste of what you’ll see there:
How was your weekend?