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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

The Islamic Collection at the Louvre

We've seen a lot of Islamic Art in the last few years, starting in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, in Andalusia at the Alhambra among other sites and most recently in Lisbon where we were stunned by the  wonderful collection at the Gulbenkian Museum. In New York we enjoyed visiting  the  newly reorganized  Islamic galleries at The Metropolitan Museum -  now rather awkwardly called the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia. Given this context we were very much anticipating our visit to  the newly opened Islamic Galleries at the Louvre. In particular because in their reorganization they opted to stress the chronological development  rather than the cultural geography of Islamic art. This is in contrast to the approach taken at the Metropolitan where  the galleries represent the art of distinct regions and are ordered with regard to the geographic provenance of objects 

Each approach has its own advantages. I prefer the way in which the Met constructs whole rooms, or displays objects so that you you can feel and understand their specific cultural context. However, at the Louvre you can see the broader  development of "Islamic Art" across multiple media including ceramics, tile work and metal.
The Louvre is such a large museum that it's often hard to break it down into a manageable chunk. For me this is a digestible version of the Louvre, a museum within a museum. Thankfully the new Islamic galleries are easily accessible, not too busy and can be seen in a single visit. For me these are the highest recommendations at the Louvre where so much is inaccessible, too crowded or too much to see. 
I loved the sheer variety of calligraphic styles in this display.
The combination of simplicity and decoration are stunning in so many of these pieces. As you can see below the labels are very comprehensive, though I was surprised that they were not also in Arabic.
There were of course many extraordinary examples of tile work. 
These tiles reminded me of William Morris' textile designs.
The shapes, colors and lustre of the pottery was captivating.
Much of the later art of Mughal India (including carpets, inlaid work and enamelware) was displayed together, see below.
If you have any interest in the art and culture of  the Middle East or the wider Islamic world this section of the Louvre should be on your short list.

Tip: The collection  continues downstairs, make sure you follow the signs that direct you back under the stairs and into an adjacent gallery. I saw several people come down the stairs and straight into the main room missing a large section of the exhibit. I do like the innovative new roof on this section but the layout is rather strange and it's astonishing that in such a new gallery the flow from room to room downstairs should be so counterintuitive. 

This is the first in a series of posts on both the Louvre and museums in Paris. I hope you enjoy them, they'll be interspersed over the next month!