The Louvre Museum is the former residence of the French kings, many of whom patronized the Muses of Art (Francis I, Louis XIV, and others.), so in the halls of the Palace visitors can see all the splendor of paintings and sculptures, tapestries and carpets, dishes and furniture and other luxury items (6 thousand exhibits and 300 thousand in the vaults) collected by kings from all over the world since the ancient times. The Museum’s collection was also enriched by private collections of works and exhibits of archaeological excavations brought by famous French archaeologists and scientists from distant exotic countries, which were discovered and studied at the cost of many years of grueling work, health, and sometimes their own lives. Therefore, the Louvre is not only a unique architectural creation, built over several centuries, but also the largest treasury of the world culture, art and civilizations. In 2021 a significant event in the history of Uzbek-French relations will take place – for the first time masterpieces of art and rarities of national culture of Uzbekistan will travel to Paris to show on the walls of the Louvre halls not only to French visitors, but also to the world the great heritage of the Silk Road, the center of which in the ancient times was our country. Therefore, we give the floor to the Head of the Islamic Culture Department of the Louvre Ms. Yannick Lintz, who in her exclusive interview will tell the readers of our magazine about this mega-project.
– First of all, I would like to ask about the upcoming exhibition in the Louvre in 2021, which is now much talked about and written about. People are interested to know how the idea of holding the exhibition “Civilizations and Cultures on the Great Silk Road” came. Who was the initiator of the project and how, in fact, it all started?
– The intention first came in 2009, when we were conducting archaeological excavations in Bukhara, and was formulated into a specific idea when I headed the Department of Islamic Culture and I had the opportunity to implement it. I really wanted to show the results of our research, because they are of great interest to the science and history of ancient civilizations, artefacts of which we found during excavations in Bukhara. I presented the project to the President of the Louvre Mr. Jean-Luc Martinez, and he, having approved it, offered to make a synopsis for its justification and implementation, which was an excellent occasion for the first time to go to Uzbekistan in 2015 with a mission to visit the leading museums of Uzbekistan. But there are so many museums that it was necessary to go to Uzbekistan again in 2016 to study exhibits of other museums – in Shakhrisabz, Samarkand and other cities. At the same time, my joint work with the archaeologist Rocco Rante began to unite both museum and archaeological works of art, and by the end of 2017 after a painstaking work with the exhibits, we finally had a general idea of what the exhibition in the Louvre could be. But there remained the problem of partnership, within which it would be possible to organize an effective joint study of all the details and nuances of the upcoming exhibition. Then in 2018 during the visit of Ms. Gayana Umerova to Paris we learned about the new Foundation for the Development of Culture and Art. It was a fantastic information for us because she told us: “if you organize such an exhibition, we will be your partner”. This has moved our project into an active stage of its implementation, becoming also the beginning of a new stage of Uzbek-French cooperation in the framework of advertising and exhibition activities to promote the ancient heritage of the Great Silk Road.
– What is the uniqueness and importance of the upcoming exhibition referred by experts and art historians as a phenomenal event in the history of exhibition activity in Uzbekistan.
– The current name of the exhibition, which is not final, is “Crossroads on the Silk Road”. This is still a working title, justifying the main idea, which is to really show the cultural heritage of Uzbekistan, which was for many centuries an important crossroads of many ancient civilizations — Iranian, Indian, Chinese, as well as the original culture of local nomadic tribes and others who developed and flourished thanks to this great trade route. It is very important for us in the Louvre to show the historical heritage and the role of Uzbekistan in this process, because we work in the Department of Islamic Art, and visitors to the Museum, when they come to see the exhibits of our Department, always think that the Islamic culture is primarily Arab or Mediterranean civilization. Therefore, the exhibition for the first time hosted in the Louvre will be designed primarily to refute the stereotypes of one-sided concepts about the culture of the East and show the complexity and diversity of its traditions. For the first time in the history of our French-Uzbek relations, the Louvre exhibition will show millions of visitors from all over the world the historical significance and importance of the territory of Uzbekistan as a center of civilizations from the ancient to modern times at the crossroads of the Silk Road between China, India and Iran. Thus, the demonstration of this heritage of the past is very important not only for us from the cultural and historical point of view, but also for the whole world, because it will help to understand the fragility of the universe, in which we still coexist and develop as a whole since the ancient times, and the Great Silk Road was its main blood artery. It seems that this exhibition will contribute not only to the restoration of the ancient trade route, but also to peace and understanding between nations and peoples.
– Tell us how the process of preparation for the exhibition is going? What stages does it include?
– Preparation of such a large-scale exhibition is a long process with many steps. The first important step for us was the official agreement between the Uzbek Foundation for the Development of Culture and Art and the Louvre Museum during your President’s official visit to Paris. The second stage, which we started two years ago and plan to complete by the end of this year, is the compilation of a list of exhibits, because any exhibition activity includes not only design, but also a description of the objects of display. That is, without a synopsis and a list of demonstration objects, there can be no exhibition. To study the works of culture and art, historical and archaeological artefacts of the Silk Road development period in order to select the most significant exhibits that optimally reveal the essence and theme of the exhibition, we, of course, had to visit not only all the museums of Uzbekistan, but also museum reserves and storage facilities, various private collections and galleries, as well as Uzbek collections outside Uzbekistan, mainly in Russia. Why this is so important – because with this list, we can start making budget estimates. At the end of this year, having a clear list of exhibits, we plan to finish the work on the estimate. The exhibition budget for us means mainly transportation costs, insurance of exhibits, catalog publication, advertising, use of communications and other lines. Once we have formed and completed the inventory of exhibition items, we can begin to calculate the budget. This is very important for both sides — for the Louvre and the Uzbek Foundation for the Development of Culture and Art.
– How big is this list? How many exhibits does it include and what museums are presented?