How Louvre-Saudi Islamic cultural ties are promoting peace and tolerance

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Alwaleed Philanthropies general secretary Princess Lamia (R) with former French president Francois Hollande (L) and Islamic Art Department director Yannick Lintz (C) at the unveiling of the newly launched spaces at the Islamic Art Department of the Louvre. (Alwaleed Philanthropies)
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Alwaleed Philanthropies general secretary Princess Lamia (L) with former French president Francois Hollande at the unveiling of the newly launched spaces at the Islamic Art Department of the Louvre. (Alwaleed Philanthropies)
Updated 13 September 2019

How Louvre-Saudi Islamic cultural ties are promoting peace and tolerance

  • Partnership between Alwaleed Philanthropies and Louvre is latest in a series of cultural tie-ups between Saudi Arabia and France
  • Newly expanded space for Islamic art at the Louvre was unveiled on Tuesday, showcasing 3,000 pieces and artefacts across 12 centuries of Islamic history

PARIS: As tourists wander into the Louvre Museum courtyard, a 15-meter banner hanging on the wall of the grand building emblazoned with a Renaissance portrait by one of Europe’s old masters is an instant reminder of who and what they are here to see.

Leonardo da Vinci’s work at the museum, and his ‘Mona Lisa’ in particular, pulls in huge crowds, with thousands queuing each day, all year round.

From this week, there will be a new attraction that marks a high point of cultural cooperation between France and the Arab world, and it is well worth the admission fee.

The newly expanded space for Islamic art at the Louvre was unveiled on Tuesday, showcasing 3,000 pieces and artefacts across 12 centuries of Islamic history from locations ranging from southern Spain to northern India.




The newly expanded space for Islamic art at the Louvre was unveiled on Tuesday, which will showcase 3,000 pieces and artifacts across 12 centuries of Islamic history from locations as wide-ranging as southern Spain to northern India. (Alwaleed Philanthropies)

The expansion was made possible with support from, and in partnership with, Saudi Arabia’s Alwaleed Philanthropies.

While the foundation carries out work in numerous fields from women’s empowerment to disaster relief across the globe, this cultural tie-up with the Louvre is a fruitful and long-running partnership. It dates back to 2002 and led to the foundation donating $23 million in 2005 to help to construct the museum’s Department of Islamic Art.

The collaboration’s importance to both parties was made clear in an address from Alwaleed Philanthropies’ general secretary, Princess Lamia bint Majed Al-Saud, at the launch attended by the former French president Francois Hollande.

The partnership is built on more than run-of-the-mill donations by benevolent collectors; it is a project with a clear mission of spreading a message of peace and tolerance — one that Princess Lamia is particularly passionate about.




The newly expanded space for Islamic art at the Louvre was unveiled on Tuesday, which will showcase 3,000 pieces and artifacts across 12 centuries of Islamic history from locations as wide-ranging as southern Spain to northern India. (Alwaleed Philanthropies)

“Prince Alwaleed believes very much in dialogue and promoting tolerance and understanding, and that is one of the core areas of focus for the foundation,” she told Arab News.

“The prince also believes in the power of art, so this collaboration is very important, as we share (with the Louvre) a vision and a perspective that we need to use art to create that world of tolerance and understanding.

“This partnership is one of our biggest initiatives and, for me personally, the one I’m most proud of because it reflects how we want people to see Islam and this part of the world. I’m very glad that we share this vision.

“Islamic art and heritage, at the end of the day, reflects what Islam is and what this part of the world was,” she added.

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Saudi-French cultural ties

The partnership between Alwaleed Philanthropies and the Louvre is the latest in a series of cultural tie-ups between Saudi Arabia and France following Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to France last year. The visit saw the signing of several cooperation agreements ranging from setting up a national opera to developing tourism around archaeological sites such as AlUla as well as an exhibition called “Saudi Cultural Days” highlighting the culture and arts scene in the Kingdom.

The inspiration for this latest expansion and development of the Louvre’s Islamic Art Department was born out of a 2016 meeting between the princess and department director Yannick Lintz after two major terrorist incidents in France the previous year in which more than 140 people were killed by militants.

Those two barbaric acts made Lintz realize there was a need for a change in how centers of culture and education such as the Louvre used art and heritage to better answer questions about Islam and its rich cultural background.

“It is important to show the true history and range of this exceptional culture and its contribution to, and interaction with, humanity’s collective artistic canon,” she said.

It is a point Princess Lamia believes cannot be made strongly enough.

“There had been a huge distortion in the vision and the picture of our part of the world and of the Islamic religion in general,” the princess said.

“I think art is the only language that has no barriers, no restrictions and it does not reflect any race or gender. To use art was a very smart move on the part of Prince Alwaleed, and to pick this project reflects how we (as a foundation) appreciate art and how we promote and support that.

“The education department here is very important, especially as we enter a digital era and look to implement more interactivity. I hope people can understand and view things from our perspective and we can succeed in reflecting an image that we are all alike and we can understand each other through art,” she added.




Princess Lamia addressing dignitaries and media at the unveiling of the newly launched spaces at the Islamic Art Department of the Louvre. (Alwaleed Philanthropies)

The foundation’s commitment to bridging cultural gaps through art and heritage is an ongoing project. A further collaboration with the Pergamon Museum in Berlin will have a “very unique piece” on display, Princess Lamia told Arab News.

She also highlighted Alwaleed Philanthropies’ six centers at prestigious universities such as Cambridge, Edinburgh, Georgetown and Harvard, saying: “At Cambridge and Edinburgh, we have very interesting pieces of Islamic heritage. We have this message we want to spread and we do it via many different projects.”

The Louvre’s Islamic art collection is one of the most extensive of its kind and is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors — a model Saudi Arabia is looking to emulate as part of its Vision 2030 and its plans to showcase the best of Saudi culture and heritage.

When asked by Arab News if she envisages similar exhibitions of specifically Saudi art and heritage on the horizon, Princess Lamia said: “I believe it will happen soon, we have a lot of beautiful pieces, but tradition and mindsets did make it difficult to get pieces out of the country.

“But I think with the new minister of culture Prince Badr Al-Farhan, the vision of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and jewels like Ithra, Al-Ula and Al-Soudah, we are giving a lot of attention to heritage and it’s what we need to do. It’s just the beginning.”


Attacks on oil facilities in Kingdom threaten world economy: Saudi energy minister

Updated 22 min 50 sec ago

Attacks on oil facilities in Kingdom threaten world economy: Saudi energy minister

  • Saudi Aramco says no staff have been injured in attacks
  • The oil giant is working on restoring the lost quantities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said drones that attacked Saudi Aramco installations had caused an interruption of an estimated 5.7 million barrels in crude supplies and threaten the world economy.

The Arab Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said in a statement that investigations are ongoing to identify the perpetrators.

And Al-Maliki said Arab coalition forces would continue to implement necessary measures to deal with the terrorist threats.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said as a result of the terrorist acts, oil production in Abqaiq and Khurais was knocked out temporarily and that estimates show that 50 percent of the company’s production had been interrupted.

Part of the decrease will be compensated to clients through reserves, Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement carried on the Saudi Press Agency.

The newly appointed minister confirmed there were no injuries to staff at the locations targeted, adding that the company is still assessing the resulting damage.

The attacks not only target the Kingdom’s vital installations, but also target the international oil supply and threaten its security, he said, and are a threat to the world economy. 

The blasts took place at 3:31am and 3:42am at the two locations, both in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, causing fires that were brought under control by emergency services.

The drone attacks, at the world’s largest oil processing plant at Abqaiq and at an oilfield in Khurais, highlight the importance of the international community to protect energy supply against “all terrorist sides that carry out, support and finance such cowardly disruptive acts,” the statement said.

He said that these blasts also knocked out the production of 2bn cubic feet of associated gas daily, used to produce 700,000 barrels of natural gas liquids, which will lead to an approximate 50 percent decrease of Ethane and natural gas liquids supply.

The statement said the company is currently working on restoring the lost quantities, and will present updated information within the next 48 hours.

World leaders condemned the attacks on Saudi Arabia on Saturday and those behind the terrorist acts. 

Donald Trump called Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reassert his country's “readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom, by all means conducive to maintain its security and stability.”

The Crown Prince "underscored the Kingdom’s willingness and strength to thwart such a terrorist aggression and deal with its consequences,” SPA reported on Saturday.

The UAE said it “condemns this act of terrorism and sabotage and considers it as a new evidence of the terrorist groups’ attempts to undermine the security and stability of the region as a whole.”

“The Houthis must stop undermining Saudi Arabia’s security by threatening civilian areas and commercial infrastructure,” said the British government.

“The US strongly condemns today’s drone attacks. These attacks against critical infrastructure endanger civilians, are unacceptable, and sooner or later will result in innocent lives being lost,” said the US envoy in Riyadh John Abizaid.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was emphatic about the need to condemn Iranian aggression, specifically on Saudi Arabia, and the need to ensure the security of world energy supplies.

“Tehran is behind nearly 100 attacks on Saudi Arabia while Rouhani and Zarif pretend to engage in diplomacy. Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply. There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen,” he tweeted, “We call on all nations to publicly and unequivocally condemn Iran’s attacks. The United States will work with our partners and allies to ensure that energy markets remain well supplied and Iran is held accountable for its aggression."

The Council of Ministers of Lebanon have also condemned the targeting of Saudi’s Aramco facilities.

The Houthis, who are backed by Iran, said they had carried out the attacks and that 10 drones had been used.