Posts tagged “islam

Islamic Arts Pavilion at the Louvre

Posted on September 25, 2012

Photo: © M. Bellini - R. Ricciotti / Musée du Louvre, © 2012 Musée du Louvre / Antoine Mongodin

Photo: © M. Bellini - R. Ricciotti / Musée du Louvre, © 2012 Musée du Louvre / Antoine Mongodin

Religious wars are not caused by the fact that there is more than one religion, but by the spirit of intolerance…the spread of which can only be regarded as the total eclipse of human reason.

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Persian Letters

Last week the Louvre opened its new Islamic Arts pavilion, a 50,000-square-foot space that cost $127 million and took four years to build. Designed by architects Rudy Ricciotti and Mario Bellini, its golden glass rooftop has been likened to a sand dune, a magic carpet or a fluttering veil. Ricciotti said in this past Sunday’s New York Times that his design — the first modern change to the Louvre since I.M. Pei added the pyramid in the 1989 — evokes Montesquieu’s Persian Letters, which is about two Persian noblemen trying to make sense of Parisian life. At a time when anti-Muslim sentiment is high in France, Ricciotti has created an elegant space that could (or should) spark discussion about multiculturalism in the country.

The Louvre has been exhibiting Muslim art since 1793. Most of the pieces it showed were from royal collections. Among its treasures: Ottoman jade bowls that belonged to Louis XIV, an inlaid metal basin made in Syria in the fourteenth century and various textiles. In the late nineteenth century, some well-off Parisian families collected their own Islamic pieces (which were in vogue at the time) before eventually donating them to the Louvre. By the time the museum established a formal Islamic Arts section in 2003, it had more than 14,000 items in its possession. Three thousand of those works are currently on display, representing some 1,300 years of history from Spain to Southeast Asia.

The Louvre’s web site features some of the collection’s highlights here.

Blouin ArtInfo has a beautiful gallery of the new pavilion here.

Other stories about the Louvre’s new Islamic Arts pavilion and Islam and in France:

New York Times: “Art Tells of Upheavals as Louvre Opens a New Wing

New York Times: “Qatar’s Latest Investment Stirs the French

Quartz: “Why French Law Protects Kate Middleton’s Breasts, But Not Muhammad’s Bottom

Bloomberg Businessweek: “Islamic Cartoon Row, Flying Carpet Hang Over Louvre

Los Angeles Times: “In Paris, Louvre’s New Islamic Wing Provides Tonic at Time of Tension

Washington Post: “Amid restive cultural divides, Louvre’s biggest facelift in a generation honors Islamic Art

Three Strong Women

Posted on September 19, 2012



The French Ministry of Immigration in 2009 opened a national discussion on what it meant to be French. The previous year, an estimated 11.8 million immigrants lived within the country’s borders, the bulk of them (around 40 percent) settling in or around Paris. In 2005, two immigrant boys were electrocuted while they hid from police in a power substation. Paris rioted, both about the deaths and the larger issue of how immigrants don’t experience liberte, egalite or fraternite once they arrive in France.

In a country with tough anti-immigration laws, critics believed the 2009 identity debates were more about exclusion than integration. After all, anti-Muslim tirades spilled onto the immigration ministry’s web site as soon as it was opened up to commenters.

Oddly enough, in that same year Marie Ndiaye won the Prix Goncourt for her novel Three Strong Women. Ndiaye, whose mother is French and father is Senegalese, became both the most widely-read author in the country and the most controversial, largely because she called President Nicolas Sarkozy’s anti-immigration policies “monstrous.” In response, a member of the French parliament wrote an open letter that said Goncourt winners should respect national cohesion or remain silent. Fortunately for readers trying to understand the realities of multiracial France, her book has been translated into English, making that silence impossible.

Three Strong Women involves three interconnected — but uneven — tales about women straddling the divide between Africa and Europe. The first is about Norah,

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