Why Major Art Museums Are Going Gaga For Islamic Art

Business Insider 6 November 2012
By Jennifer Polland

Last month, Paris's Louvre museum opened its new Islamic Art Wing amidst uproar over the series of controversial Mohammed cartoons that were published in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to the tune of $125 million.

And just last year, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art re-opened its Islamic art galleries, which had been closed for renovations for eight years. The Met's revamped galleries, called the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia, cost about $40 million.

The fact that two of the world's greatest cultural institutions have invested heavily in their Islamic art collections within the last year is worth taking note. So why are these major museums devoting so much space and money to Islamic art?

For starters, it's worth looking at the investors behind the museums' Islamic art collections. The Louvre's 10-year $125 million project was largely funded by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia and his wife Princess Amira al-Taweel, who gave the museum $20 million toward the galleries, according to The New York Times.

"After 9/11 all Arabs and Muslims have the duty and the responsibility to tell the west about real Muslims, about real Islam, and how peaceful our religion is,” Prince Walee
d bin Talal said in a statement.Other Louvre donors were the the French government, corporations like oil company Total, and the governments of countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco, Kuwait and the Republic of Azerbaijan.

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