PARIS, France (CNN) -- The Louvre Museum in Paris has just opened a new wing dedicated to showcasing its Islamic art collection. It brings together pieces that span centuries. Some say the exhibition could not have come at a better time.
In an ancient courtyard of the Louvre Museum, a new roof has appeared meant to suggest flowing silk or a desert tent, it covers what the museums director believes is the finest collection of Islamic art to be seen anywhere. Herni Loyrette says, "It is a very comprehensive collection which goes from frontiers of Spain to frontiers of China to India ...from the 7th century to the 19th century...and last part of this collection was already the Royal collection since the Middle Ages."
At least some of the rich assembly of objects and art was already on display in different parts of the museum, but much had simply been in storage, in some cases for decades. The idea of bringing it all together began ten years ago under former president Jacques Chirac.
Italian architects designed the 3,000 square meters of new exhibition space, mostly underground in an unused courtyard of the Louvre. It is the first major expansion of the museum since the opening of the pyramid in the Louvre more than 20 years ago.
The state put up about a third of the 100 million Euro cost, but the biggest single private donor was Saudi prince Alwaleed Bin Talal through a foundation run by him and his wife. He says, "Islam is being stigmatized right now, because some acts of its people by being extremist and terrorist so I think that the governments, leaders, NGOs institutions like ours the AlWaleed Bin Talal foundation has the duty and responsibility to begin changing that mentality and stigma. It is a long road but we will and I will do whatever I can."
His wife Princess Ameerah says, "We hope to encourage leaders to lead, we want to create a positive civil society, more specifically in the region. We basically want, our vision is to, for every individual to live with dignity, independence and hope. "
Since the project was years in the making, the timing of its opening was not anything but accidental, but nonetheless, many connected with the Louvre's new Islamic wing believe the moment could not have been better, given the conflict and misunderstanding between the West and East.
Anything that helps narrow the gap between cultures, the director of the Louvre believes, is greatly needed. The exhibit he proudly calls an Islamic art dialogue.