Saif Gaddafi's Islamic art museum at a standstill

Not to open to celebrate Colonel Gaddafi?s rise to power

Published on 25 August 2011

Author(s): The Art Newspaper/Riah Pryor

Type:  News Originally published 28 April 2011

Libyan conflict has halted construction on—and acquistions for—new museum in Tripoli due to open in September

The Libyan conflict has halted the creation of a museum of Islamic art in Tripoli, due to open in September to celebrate the anniversary of Colonel Mua­m­mar Gaddafi’s rise to power. The acquisition of exhibits was underway and pieces are known to have been bought from London auction houses over the past three years.

As patron of the department of archaeology, Saif Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, was supporting the project. He is thought to have wanted a collection to show international guests. It was due to be housed in a summer palace built for the Ottoman Yusuf Pasha in the 18th century.

Hafed Walda, a Libyan who advises the country’s department of archaeology on cultural projects, including the new museum, said work on the project had now stopped.

Libya-Islam museum.jpg
Building stopped in Tripoli

Walda was unwilling to disclose which pieces had been bought for the collection and where they were currently being stored. He said, however, that works are no longer being purchased. He added that the future of the collection is uncertain but hoped it could also incorporate objects from Libya’s own history, which includes the Roman ruins of Leptis Magna.

“It’s important that locals begin to connect their cultural heritage with their national identity, rather than viewing the imperialist influences as incompatible with modern politics,” he said.

The Tripoli War Museum, designed by Camillin Denny Archi­tects, was also scheduled to open this year. Walda said that it remains in “the planning stages”. Tripoli’s National Museum has not reported looting or damage since the outbreak of conflict.

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