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Culture

Pergamon and Hellenistic Kingdoms

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) presents Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World, an extraordinary exhibition highlighting the art and artistry of the Hellenistic Age.

Covering the period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the start of the Roman Empire in the 1st century BC, the exhibition includes over 260 works of art, statues, mosaics, jewelry, vases, pottery, and coins, some on view in the United States for the first time. The exhibition is a historic collaboration between the MMA and the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, reassessing the artwork of the period once regarded as decadent. Recent excavations and new studies have fostered a deeper appreciation of Hellenistic art and its widespread influence in the ancient world.

The ancient city of Pergamon was once a center of wealth and power under the Attalid dynasty, rulers of a large section of Asia Minor in the Hellenistic era who made the city the capital of their kingdom. These Hellenistic kings, successors of Alexander, followed his example of artistic patronage, influencing tastes in art for centuries. Royalty and wealthy elites commissioned works that blended the clean lines of Classical Greek art with Eastern cultural influences and more elaborate decorative styles, creating a dynamic artistic expression in everything from monumental sculpture to even the most ordinary of objects. A 13-foot tall marble statue of the goddess Athena from the Pergamon library, the second most important library in antiquity after the Library of Alexandria, numerous Roman-style marble portrait busts, and gilded silver cups are among the artifacts on display in the exhibition as well as a model of the Great Altar of Pergamon, the original western front of which is the most famous artifact in the Berlin antiquities collection. Other objects in the exhibition are on loan from museums in Greece, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United States.

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens has loaned artifacts including a marble head and arm from a colossal statue of Zeus, male and female marble portrait busts found in Smyrna, and artifacts from the underwater excavations of the Antikythera Shipwreck. A video installation shows the recent underwater excavations of that famous shipwreck. The Benaki Museum in Athens has loaned ornate gold jewelry, bracelets featuring the Herakles knot, hair nets, necklaces, pins and diadems, examples of the incredible skill of the ancient artisans. Among those present at the press preview for the exhibition held on April 11, MMA Director and CEO Thomas Campbell and Department of Greek and Roman Art Curator in Charge Carlos A. Picon who mentioned that planning the exhibition began five years ago and that one third of all the works in the exhibition are on loan from Berlin. Picon and Department of Greek and Roman Art Curator Sean Hemingway organized the exhibition along with curators on the staff, Christopher S. Lightfoot and Joan R. Mertens, and Assistant Curator of the Department of Greek and Roman Art Kiki Karoglou who answered press questions graciously. She mentioned that one of the joys of installing the sculptures at the Met is that you get views you never see in other museums. The space allows for 360 degree views of sculpture as it was meant to be seen in many cases. The exhibition opens to the public on April 18 with museum member previews on April 12 through April 17. Guided tours, gallery talks and other related programs also accompany the Pergamon exhibition as well as a two-day symposium, Art of the Hellenistic Kingdoms: From Pergamon to Rome on May 4 and May 5.

The exhibition is made possible by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Betsy and Edward Cohen /Arete Foundation. Additional support is provided by Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman, Renee Belfer, Diane Carol Brandt, Gilbert and Ildiko Butler, Mary and Michael Jaharis, and The Vlachos Family Fund.

The exhibition catalogue may be purchased online and at the MMA stores. More information is available at the MMA website or at 212-535-7710. The MMA is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

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