The largest museum in the world opens to Eastern Europe and the Middle East

Laurence des Cars (Laurence des Cars), the new president of the Louvre Museum in Paris, announced the opening of a new – ninth museum department that will be dedicated to Byzantium and Oriental Christianity.

The decision to open this department is of historical significance for the Louvre, but also for all countries of Eastern Christianity – from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, including, of course, Serbia.

“When the department dedicated to Byzantium and the Christian Orient is opened, it will have the mission to establish strong ties and to propose a program of large exhibitions, precise programs, etc.” This will mean the opening of the Louvre to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. In the very center of the Louvre, sharpen the importance of civilization, which still makes up half of Europe “, explains Nikola Milovanović, curator – head of the painting department at the Louvre Museum, responsible for the existing collection of icons and a professor at a prestigious school. Louvre School.

Nikola Milovanović

The Louvre Museum, founded in 1793 in the former royal residence in the center of Paris, had a revolutionary name: the Central Museum of Arts of the Republic (Muséum central des arts de la République).

Since then, no more than eight museum departments have been opened: Painting, Egyptian Antiquity, then Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquity, Oriental Antiquity, Sculptures, Art Objects, Islamic Arts and Graphic Arts. The Louvre is the largest museum in the world, both in size and attendance (more than 10 million visitors a year).

“Since its opening during the French Revolution, the Louvre has had a mission characterized by universalism. This means that the Louvre should show all cultures starting with classical European cultures. The department of Greek and Roman antiquity was opened first. So, it starts with the opening of the department dedicated to Greece and Rome and painting, of course, then the sculptures, the department for Egypt opens. Of course, the ties are strong between French and Egyptian civilization. Other departments will be opened, some decades later “, says Milovanović.


Luvr Museum

The project of opening this department for Byzantium and the Christian Orient in the Louvre Museum has existed for more than a decade, but for some reason it has remained “in the drawer” so far.

As early as January 7, 2010, President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his desire to establish a department for the arts of the Christian Orient, Byzantium and Slavs – as the Paris daily reminded these days. Le Figaro. The then manager of the Louvre Henri loyrette he enthusiastically accepted the idea, pointing out that the Louvre already had a valuable collection that could enter the new department. At that time, the project of opening a department dedicated to the arts of Islam was just completed.

However, everything stopped when Jean-Luc Martinez came to the helm of the Louvre in 2013, who thought that the opening of a department dedicated to the Christian Orient and Byzantium was “not urgent”. At that time, the President of the Republic was the Socialist Francois Hollande, the state reduced subsidies, and the project of opening a new department was no longer mentioned in the “guidelines” of the Ministry of Culture – the Catholic daily reported. The cross.

French media remind that in 2019, Charles Personnaz, director of the Institute for Cultural Heritage, in his report to President Macron recommended opening a department for Byzantium and Oriental Christianity in the context of strengthening support for the protection of cultural heritage in the Middle East.

“Today we have eight departments in the Louvre. The last department of the Art of Islam was opened in 2003. The Louvre wanted to open a space dedicated to Islam which was, of course, an important event. However, there was a lack of Eastern Christianity and Byzantium, which is the source of our civilization. “The whole of Eastern Europe, Orthodoxy and Oriental Christians were missing,” Milovanovic said.

Explaining why the opening of a new department in the Louvre Museum dedicated to Byzantium and Oriental Christianity is an event of great importance, Nikola Milovanović reminds that for one cultural area each department in the Louvre is a reference in France and in the world.

“I will give you an example. I am the curator-head of the painting department: Every time a French museum wants to buy a painting, it asks for the opinion of the Louvre Museum’s painting department, because that department is competent to give its opinion for all museum purchases – in the sense of expertise and performs scientific expertise in the field of culture “, he says. “When a department in the Louvre Museum opens, it is active in the scientific sense of the word, which means publishing works and organizing exhibitions. So, it is clear that the opening of that department will strengthen ties with all countries of the Orthodox world and the Christian Orient “, explains Milovanović.

We learn from him that the Louvre Museum already has a very rich collection of art objects and works that have a vocation to be found in the future department for Byzantium and the Christian Orient.

“The existing collection is dominated by Byzantium with the early Byzantine era and a very rich collection of Coptic objects. There is much more. Russia and Greece are key for the simple reason that it was possible to buy them. They entered the museum in recent times – since there is a section for Christian art, so some icons have been bought. “Some of them, which are older, are part of the Campana collection, which was bought during the time of Napoleon III, at the end of the 19th century,” says Milovanović.

The existing collection, however. it is not particularly visible because it is scattered in several compartments.

“For example, if you are interested in Byzantium – you will find many items in the department of” art objects “, but also in the department of sculptures or in the department of Egyptian antiquities, when it comes to Coptic civilization. Also – in the department of art of Islam, where there are several early Christian and Byzantine mosaics. The idea is to gather all these objects and open a new space for them so that we can have a comprehensive and detailed idea of ​​Byzantine culture and beyond – of Oriental Christianity, “explains our interlocutor.

Milovanovic says that so far there has been no planned policy with the goal of building a collection of icons and that the purpose of opening a new department in the Louvre Museum is to fill the existing gaps.

“As I said, we have an important Byzantine conspiracy. When it comes to, say, Serbia, which I know well – we have almost nothing. “It is clear that the purpose of this new department will be to fill the existing gaps, especially when it comes to Eastern European countries, Serbia in particular. Medieval Serbia was never valued in the Louvre,” he points out.

Nikola Milovanović emphasizes that this is a long-term project that will require both time and commitment.

“The most important thing is that the decision was made to open a department for Byzantium and the Christian Orient.” Certainly, one should not imagine that in six months what follows will be completed. It will take a lot of time to organize everything to determine the spaces – I think there is a very big job ahead, “he says.

“Of course, it is up to the new president to choose the staff, to propose a calendar and present the plan. I expect that we will know more about that in September “, concludes Milovanović.

Source: Balkan Magazin – Aktuelnosti by

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