Divine Dialogues: Cy Twombly and Greek Antiquity at MCA in Athens

Μario Ιozzo- Director, Archaeological and National Museum of Florence, Stefano Casciu- Director, Polo Museale of Tuscany, Nicola Del Roscio- President, Cy Twombly Foundation, Sandra Marinopoulos- President, Museum of Cycladic Art, Professor Nikolaos Stampolidis- Director, Museum of Cycladic Art, Jonas Storsve- Keeper of the Cabinet d'art graphique, Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris. Photo: Paris Tavitian ©Museum of Cycladic Art, 2017

ATHENS – The exhibition Divine Dialogues: Cy Twombly and Greek Antiquity opened at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens (MCA) on May 25 and runs through September 3. Showcasing ancient artifacts side by side with works by the late contemporary American artist Cy Twombly, the exhibition is made possible thanks to the support of the Cy Twombly Foundation.

For the first time, 27 works by Twombly inspired by Greek mythology and his close ties with Greece are presented alongside 12 ancient artworks, revealing a unique and original dialogue between ancient Greek and contemporary art. The exhibition includes representative drawings and sculptures by the contemporary artist, such as Venus (1975), Pan (1975), Nike (1980), Apollo (1975), Dionysus (1975), Orpheus (1979), Aristaeus mourning the loss of his bees (1973) and Aphrodite Anadyomene (1979). These works will “converse” with a series of ancient artworks such as the Torso of Aphrodite Anadyomene from the Archaeological Museum of Paphos, the Relief with representation of Orpheus, Eurydice and Hermes from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, the Statue of Dionysus from the Archaeological Museum of Eleusis, the Statuette of Apollo and the Figurine of winged Nike from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

In each of the exhibition’s 7 sections, Twombly’s works are displayed opposite a selection of ancient Greek deities, heroes, and personifications, creations of Archaic and Classical art that shaped and illustrated the characters and objects of Greek mythology, the source of Twombly’s inspiration.

One of the 7 sections of the exhibition Divine Dialogues: Cy Twombly and Greek Antiquity now on view at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens.
Photo: Paris Tavitian ©Museum of Cycladic Art, 2017

Cy Twombly‘s fascination with Greece is well known. Greek mythology was already part of his oeuvre from the late 1950s, though his first visit to Greece took place in the summer of 1960. It was only in the 1970s that he explored Greek history and mythology in depth, culminating with his masterpiece, the cycle Fifty Days at Iliam (Philadelphia Museum of Art). He painted the work over the summers of 1977 and 1978 in his studio in Bassano in Teverina, Italy, north of Rome.

Of special note in the exhibition is the famous François Vase, also known as the Kleitias and Ergotimos Krater, a milestone in the development of ancient Greek pottery and vase painting, which travels for the first time outside Italy, from the Archaeological Museum of Florence. It has been said that the François Vase is so unique that, even if all other ancient Greek vases were lost, it alone could illustrate Greek mythology and the code of Archaic Greek art. It was found in 1844/1845 in an Etruscan tomb near Chiusi, Italy, and was named after its discoverer Alessandro Francois. It depicts over 270 figures, many with identifying inscriptions, representing a number of mythological themes, some of which were portrayed for the first time in ancient Greek art. In 1900, a museum guard threw a stool at the case that contained the vase and smashed it into 638 pieces. It was restored in 1902 by Pietro Zei, while a second reconstruction, in 1973, incorporated a previously missing piece.

The exhibition is curated by Professor Nikolaos Stampolidis, Director of the Museum of Cycladic Art and Jonas Storsve, Curator at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and of the major Cy Twombly retrospective exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou.

Sandra Marinopoulos, President of the Museum, said, “Divine Dialogues: an exhibition where ancient gods converse with contemporary art. Cy Twombly, one of the most significant contemporary artists who has been inspired by Greek mythology will be shown at the Cycladic among the ancient gods… I have been dreaming of an exhibition of Cy Twombly here at the Cycladic for a long time, knowing his passion and love for Greece and its history. Last summer, I had the chance to meet Nicola Del Roscio, President of the Cy Twombly Foundation and together with Jonas Storsve, Curator of the major Cy Twombly retrospective exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou, we decided to bring this exhibition to life. In collaboration with Nikos Stampolidis, once again, antiquities will be exhibited at our museum side by side with contemporary art.”

Professor Stampolidis said, “The coalescence and dialogue between Antiquity and modern and contemporary artistic creation is not new to the Museum of Cycladic Art, [for example] the 2006 exhibition Shaping of the Beginning. However, this is the start of a more systematic organization of this dialogue: representational ancient Greek Art combined with Greek mythology and poetry, expressed through statues, clay figurines and narrative vase, in dialogue with a contemporary artist who, employing a conceptual and minimalist artistic code, transfigures Antiquity during the late 20th century. In his own words Cy Twombly has said: ‘I have infinite longing to see and feel these ancient wonders. My work thirsts for their contact.’”

The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue. More information is available online www.cycladic.gr.