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Arts

MFA’s George D. & Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World to Open Dec. 18

BOSTON – Opening December 18 at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, five newly transformed galleries at the heart of the MFA’s George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World invite visitors to explore nearly 550 objects from one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of Classical art in the world:

Anchored by the Museum’s beloved 13-foot statue of Juno, an immersive gallery dedicated to gods and goddesses recreates the atmosphere of an ancient temple. It introduces the Olympians through their myths and explores how they were worshipped by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

A Byzantine gallery— the first of its kind in New England— showcases a geographically diverse collection of works ranging from the era of Emperor Constantine the Great in the 4th century to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. A highlight of the space, which is modeled on early Byzantine church architecture, is the 15th-century Monopoli Altarpiece, on view for the first time after undergoing a three-year conservation treatment.

Mosaic with personifications of Pleasure and Wealth, 6th century AD, stone and glass tesserae, Gift of George D. and Margo Behrakis. (Photo: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

The Romans combined likeness, character and social status to create images that are compellingly human, inventing portraiture as we know it today. In a gallery focused on Roman portraiture, visitors will encounter the faces of emperors and those of everyday individuals.

Early Greek art, dating from the end of the 10th through 5th centuries, is a major strength of the MFA’s collection. Filled with natural light, a gallery dedicated to this formative period includes the frieze blocks from the 6th-century Temple of Athena at Assos in Turkey, a rare example of Greek temple architecture in a U.S. art museum.

A gallery of modern and contemporary works located within the wing— the first such space in a major U.S. art museum— explores the reception of ancient art by 20th- and 21st-century artists. The first of the multiyear rotations features the works of the modern master Cy Twombly (1928–2011), an alumnus of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, who drew inspiration from Greek and Roman art, myths and poetry. Il Parnasso (1964), an early important painting by the artist that is a promised gift to the Museum, is joined by three bronzes and two original plasters on long-term loan from the Cy Twombly Foundation.

Statue of Athena Parthenos, Roman, Imperial period, 2nd or 3rd century AD, Marble from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens. Classical Department Exchange Fund. (Photo: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Bringing to life the richness of the Greek, Roman and Byzantine worlds, these five galleries provide fresh perspectives on an era that provided inspiration for our own modern society. The new spaces will complete a renovated suite of 11 Classical galleries transformed since 2009— most recently, “Daily Life in Ancient Greece” in 2017. The MFA will offer free admission on opening day, December 18, to celebrate the debut of the five new galleries and the reopening of seven galleries in the Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World that have been closed for the past two years to accommodate construction.

More information is available online: https://www.mfa.org/gallery/art-of-ancient-greece-rome-and-the-byzantine-empire.

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