The first stone was laid Wednesday at the Louvre’s new Arts of Islam gallery, the first major modern architectural addition to the museum since its famed glass pyramid was built in the 1980s.
President Nicolas Sarkozy and a major donor for the project, Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, took part in the ceremony to start work on the addition, which includes a shimmering glass wave hanging over a 19th-century courtyard. The project’s architects say it resembles a cloud or a flying carpet.
The wing, expected to open in 2010, will display a vast collection of Islamic art from the seventh to the 19th century.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, Sarkozy spoke of the need for dialogue between the West and the Middle East.
This gallery “will be the chance for all French and foreign visitors to the Louvre to see that Islam is progress, science, refinement, modernity, and that fanaticism in the name of Islam is to flout Islam,” Sarkozy said.
“With Abu Dhabi, French museums are exporting, and here today it is Islam that is coming to the heart of France,” French Culture Minister Christine Albanel said.