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As a result the gallery will be closed for two years in order to complete the major refit and some of its treasures will embark on a worldwide touring exhibition.

The gift of £5.4m, one of the most generous ever received by the museum, has come from Hartwell plc. Hartwell, which has headquarters in Oxford, and with interests in automotive retailing, investment property and consumer finance, is part of the Abdul Latif Jameel Group (ALJ) founded in Saudi Arabia 60 years ago with its headquarters in Jeddah.

The V&A’s refurbished gallery will be renamed The Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art in memory of Mr Abdul Latif Jameel, the late founder of the group, and his wife Nafisa.

The Hartwell donation will not only allow the gallery to be redesigned, it also provides the funds to take some of the collection on tour during the redecoration. Over the next two years, treasures from the V&A’s collection, like the ivory casket shown here, will first visit the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Kimbell Art Museum in Forth Worth, Texas, before moving on to Tokyo and then the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield. They will return to the V&A’s new gallery in 2006.

“This is an extremely generous gift...” said the V&A’s director Mark Jones. “The V&A’s collections of Islamic art began to be formed as early as 1848 and they are universally recognised for their significance and scale.

When it was created half a century ago, our present gallery was the most advanced display of Islamic art in the world and ever since it has been instrumental in fostering appreciation of Islamic art as one of the world’s great cultures. This gift will allow us to re-present the gallery and use our collections to inspire future generations and spread a deeper understanding of Islamic culture”.

The V&A are not the only institution to be raising the profile of Islamic Art. Next month sees the Hermitage Rooms at London’s Somerset House hosting a temporary exhibition titled Heaven on Earth: Art From Islamic Lands. This display will feature around 60 masterpieces of decorative arts from the Islamic world ranging in date from the 9th to the 19th century that have been drawn from the collections of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg and the Kahlili Foundation. Persian manuscripts and miniatures, Mughal Jewellery, silver from Iran, jewel- studded weaponry and a menagerie of bronze and ceramic animals, will all feature in the exhibition which runs from March 25-August 22.