Controversy over a planned exhibition of Bulgarian religious art at the Louvre museum in Paris has led to a fateful conclusion—the show has been canceled altogether. Last week, the Bulgarian Ministry of Culture decided to can the show, titled “Art and Cultures in Bulgaria between the 16th and 18th Centuries,” following concern from experts over the curatorial framework, which focused on stylistic dialogues between Christian and Islamic art in Bulgaria. The Balkan Insight reported that the since-canceled show was originally scheduled to open in June, and was to include 60 artworks.
A Louvre spokesperson confirmed that the show was called off, and declined to comment further.
Earlier this month, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church said it would not lend works to the show. A representative for the Holy Synod had previously said in a statement that “items must not be taken out of the church repositories and taken abroad unless it is for pilgrimages.”
That decision came after some experts in Bulgaria said that the show’s thematic approach was potentially inaccurate. The Louvre had planned to highlight how Islamic art had influenced Christian art in the country, and the show was to appear near the museum’s Islamic art galleries.
Emmanuil Mutafov, director of the Institute for the Study of Arts at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, suggested that there was almost no exchange between Muslim and Christian makers during the period surveyed in the exhibition. Speaking to the Bulgarian television network bTV, he said, “The influences of Islam on Christianity in Bulgaria are indirect, sporadic, and limited.”
Some have viewed the show’s cancellation as a sign of growing nationalist sentiment in Bulgaria, where Muslims are a minority accounting for around 15 percent of the population, according to a 2017 estimate. According to an Agence France-Presse report, leaders of the nationalist group VMRO, which has regularly promoted conservative ideologies in Macedonia and the surrounding region, called the planned Louvre show an “insult” and a “mockery.”