Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is donating about $20 million toward the building of an Islamic art wing at the Louvre, the largest-ever gift to the museum in what Alwaleed described as "an investment" to better explain the Islamic world to Europeans.
The gift accounts for nearly one-third of the $66 million the Louvre plans to spend on its new Islamic art galleries, to open in 2009. The rest of the funding is coming from the French government and several French corporations. Alwaleed, 48, is the largest shareholder in New York-based Citigroup Inc. and controls a personal fortune Forbes magazine estimated at $23.7 billion.
The Louvre's current Islamic galleries can display only 1,300 objects of a total Islamic art collection of about 10,000 pieces, with the rest kept in underground storage. The new rooms will have 36,000 square feet of display space, about four times the current area.