The museum relaunched last month by the L’Institut du Monde Arabe is based on the “cultural expressions of Arab-world societies”, making the project different from the rival Islamic art department due to open this summer at the Louvre, says Marie Foissy, who has overseen the project. “We want to get people thinking about Arab identity, not Islamic [identity], with the focus on the different groups that make up the Arab world. There are, after all, Jewish and Christian populations there.”
The Musée de l’Institut du Monde Arabe measures 2,400 sq. m and is divided into five thematic sections, spread across four floors. The displays focus on issues such as the aesthetic concept of beauty and the growth in towns and religion. There are more than 1,000 objects on show, dating from 3,000BC to the present day. Items from the Middle East include 17th-century church icons from Libya and Syria, which are on loan from a private collection.
Gulf states have poured money into the €5m project, with the Kuwaiti government contributing €2m and Saudi Arabia €500,000. The Lagardère Foundation, set up by the eponymous French media conglomerate, gave €1m. Foissy denies French press reports that a lack of funds meant the museum had to scrap a section on art and society.
Meanwhile, the Louvre has loaned a 19th-century tile with a Hebrew inscription to the new museum.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Arab institute revamps its museum'