PRINT January 2013


the Musée du Louvre’s galleries of Islamic art

Mario Bellini and Rudy Ricciotti, Department of Islamic Art, Musée du Louvre, 2012, Paris. Photo: Philippe Ruault.

THE MOST CONSPICUOUS architectural intervention distinguishing the Louvre’s new galleries of Islamic art is an iridescent, undulating, anodized gold screen. It lifts, falls, and stretches horizontally across the Visconti Courtyard, nearly filling the space, and seems to hover in the air, serving as the roof of two floors of galleries—one at ground level, the other below it—that together make a museum within a museum. This diaphanous metallic scrim appears to rest atop a glass curtain wall that wraps around the perimeter of the first-floor gallery. Excavators carved out a sufficient mass of earth to provide thirty thousand square feet of exhibition space, roughly four times what was previously assigned to display Islamic art at the Louvre.

Yet for all the labor such a massive undertaking entails, its end result seems less a building than a gesture whose form and effect

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