Every month, Ancient History Encyclopedia will share news about select museum exhibitions and events of interest to our global audience via AHetc. Exhibitions are arranged in alphabetical order by geographical location and region within this post: the Americas, United Kingdom, Europe/Middle East, and East Asia/Oceania. Here is a taste of what is on show at major museums around the world in March 2017:
This dazzling exhibition focuses on the Museum’s world-class collection of jewelry from Ancient Nubia (located in what is now Sudan). The Nubian adornments housed at the MFA constitute the most comprehensive collection outside Khartoum. As the conduit between the Mediterranean world and lands south of the Nile Valley, Nubia was known for its exotic luxury goods–especially gold. Gold and the Gods focuses on excavated ornaments from an early 20th-century expedition by the Museum with Harvard University, dating from 1700 BCE to 300 CE, including both uniquely Nubian and foreign imports, prized for their materials, craftsmanship, symbolism, and rarity. The MFA is the only US museum able to mount an exhibition devoted solely to Nubian adornment drawing exclusively on its own collection.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Until May 14, 2017.
(Please see our interview with a curator from this exhibition, which was published in 2014.)
An interdisciplinary collaboration at Harvard University has created a full-scale reproduction of an ancient Egyptian throne belonging to Queen Hetepheres (about 2550 BCE). The chair’s materials are based on the ancient original: cedar, bright blue faience tiles, gold foil, gesso, cordage seating, and copper. This experiment in archaeological visualization is a triumph of reconstruction because the only guidance came from thousands of tiny, jumbled fragments and 90-year old expedition records. The reproduction chair is the centerpiece of the new exhibit, Recreating the Throne of Egyptian Queen Hetepheres. In 1925, the Harvard University–Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition discovered a small, unfinished chamber almost 100 feet underground at the famous site of Giza. It contained the deteriorated burial equipment, sarcophagus, and other objects belonging to Queen Hetepheres, mother of King Khufu, the pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid nearby. The Giza Project team created a 3D digital model of the tomb and its contents, and then used a computer-controlled, five-axis milling machine, plus lots of human labor, to fabricate the chair. The goal of this new museum display object and research/teaching tool was to reconstruct the chair’s iconography and to document the ancient workflow that the Egyptians used to construct such a masterpiece from the Pyramid Age.
Harvard Semitic Museum
Until January 1, 2018.
Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will present works from the museum’s Chinese art collection at the Vincent Price Art Museum in a special exhibition. Chinese Ceramics from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will present 50 ceramic masterpieces with examples from the Neolithic period to the 19th century that exhibit a variety of styles and techniques, including works made of low-fired earthenware and high-fired stoneware and porcelain. These magnificent specimens can be seen at the Vincent Price Art Museum.
Vincent Price Art Museum
Until July 22, 2017.
Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes
For more than a millennium following the fall of Rome, antiquity was evoked and preserved through visual arts, ceremony, and manuscript culture. Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes explores the constant and varied engagement of medieval people with the classical past. In many ways the classical world never really died, but just receded under layers of subsequent culture. For authors and artists alike, the process of historical remembering in the centuries before the Renaissance often involved embellishment or invention, as stories of ancient rulers and mythological heroes were frequently employed and adapted for inclusion in Christian texts. Bringing together objects from the Getty Museum’s antiquities collection with works from the manuscripts collection, the exhibition is divided into three sections. Section one explores the fluidity of artistic forms across antiquity and the Middle Ages. The second focuses on the classical knowledge base that was preserved by and transmitted through the work of medieval scribes and artisans. The last section explores medieval understanding of, and approaches to, the past.
J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center
Until May 28, 2017.
Pointe-à-Callière presents the world premiere of From the Lands of Asia. The Sam and Myrna Myers Collection. This exhibition features some 400 pieces selected from among the finest objects in a collection of 5,000 works of Asian art amassed over 50 years by an American couple living in Paris. Sam and Myrna Myers acquired their first pieces in Switzerland in 1966–objects mainly from the classical age (Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Orient). At the time, the couple was being advised by erudite and intellectual gallery owner Dr. Rosembaum, who rubbed shoulders with such renowned writers as Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann, and pioneers of surrealism like Hans Arp and Max Ernst. Having taken this first step, the Myers then sought to enrich their collection. Everywhere they went–both in Paris and during their travels–they frequented antique dealers, visited museums, and went to auctions. They acquired such splendid Chinese sculptures as a monumental Buddha head from the Sui dynasty (580-618) and a Guanyin bodhisattva dating to 1100-1120. From that point on, the collectors concentrated on East Asian pieces, creating unique and coherent ensembles, particularly in jade, silk, porcelain, and other refined materials—some of which are described as having so-called magical properties.
Until March 19, 2017.
New York, NY
The ancient Egyptians believed that to make rebirth possible for a deceased woman, she briefly had to turn into a man. Guided by new research inspired in part by feminist scholarship, the exhibition A Woman’s Afterlife: Gender Transformation in Ancient Egypt tells this remarkable story of gender transformation in the ancient world, exploring the differences between male and female access to the afterlife. This exhibition showcases 27 objects from our renowned collection of ancient Egyptian art. It includes the painted coffin box and mask of Weretwahset, which represents a deceased woman with red skin, the magical intervention that gave her the male power to create a fetus for her own rebirth. There is also a small, finely carved statuette of a woman; her elaborate wig and close-fitting dress indicate that she has returned to the female state after recreating herself for rebirth.
Until December 31, 2017.
Bringing to vivid life the emotions of the people of ancient Greece, and prompting questions about how we express, control, manipulate, or simulate feelings in our own society, the Onassis Cultural Center New York presents the path-breaking exhibition A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC-200 AD. On view exclusively at the Onassis Cultural Center New York, the exhibition brings together more than 130 masterpieces from some of the finest museums in the world including the Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum Athens, the Louvre, the British Museum, the Vatican Museums, among many others, to explore the ideas and attitudes of people in classical antiquity toward emotion and the ways in which the emotions were depicted, revealing how some are strikingly familiar to us and some shockingly alien. Although ancient Greece is often said to have been flooded with the light of reason, A World of Emotions lays bare the far different reality addressed in the Iliad, whose very first word is menis: wrath.
The Onassis Cultural Center New York
From March 9 until June 24, 2017.
The Six Dynasties period, from the 3rd to 6th centuries, was one of the most dynamic periods in Chinese art history, akin to the European Renaissance in the impact it had on artistic creativity and the celebration of individual expression. Over the past twenty years, archaeological excavations have unearthed extraordinary works of art, forever altering scholarly understanding of this chaotic, four-hundred-year period of political upheaval, geographical division and civil strife. Not only was the Six Dynasties period a pivotal link in the historical timeline between the Han and Tang dynasties, but it is increasingly recognized for having laid the foundation for Chinese artistic standards, genres, subjects, and important themes that continue to define Chinese art today. This exhibition will present the artistic innovations and achievements evidenced by recent archaeological findings from both the Southern and Northern Dynasties across four major disciplines: ceramics, sculpture, calligraphy and painting. Each of these disciplines provides a different glimpse into daily and ritual life during this time.
Until March 19, 2017.
An exhibition of 50 exceptional Native American works of art drawn entirely from New York’s Charles and Valerie Diker Collection—one of the most comprehensive and diverse private collections of its kind—will go on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning October 28. With artworks ranging in date from the second to the early 20th century, Native American Masterpieces from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection will explore important artistic achievements from culturally distinct Indigenous peoples throughout the North American continent. The selected artworks demonstrate the unique visions of Indigenous artists who worked in a wide variety of aesthetic forms and media in innovative ways that defy categorization. The exhibition will make historic and regional connections between the works of art while highlighting superb and rare pieces from early periods.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Until March 19, 2017.
Featuring almost fifty objects from the Rubin Museum’s premiere collection of Nepalese art and select loans, Nepalese Seasons: Rain and Ritual illustrates the enduring manifestation of rituals, agrarian festivals, and the natural environment in the art of Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. This is the first exhibition connecting well-known deities represented in Nepalese art to rituals and festivals surrounding the rainy season, or monsoon, and highlighting the importance of the seasons to the culture and everyday life of Nepalese people. Through this lens, the exhibition will offer visitors a new understanding of the region and its art, which is already renowned for its high quality and aesthetic appeal. As life in Nepal faces ongoing threats from natural disasters and climatic changes, “Nepalese Seasons” poignantly illustrates how the country’s dependence on monsoon rain continues to play an important role in its agriculture, spirituality, social culture, and art.
Until March 27, 2017.
Asia Society Museum in New York presents a selection of 76 artifacts from a thousand-year-old shipwreck discovered in 1998 in Southeast Asian waters. On view for the first time in the United States, the objects are evidence of the robust exchange of goods, ideas, and culture between far-flung kingdoms in Asia during the ninth century. Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia features precious cargo — bound for the Abbasid Caliphate, an empire that included present-day Iran and Iraq, and produced in China during the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) — including ceramics, gold and silver vessels, bronze mirrors, and other artifacts. Discovered in 1998 off of Belitung Island, Indonesia, the ship’s contents were miraculously protected from erosion and breakage by tight and ingenious packing as well as the conditions of the silty floor of the Java Sea. Highlights in the exhibition include a magnificent ewer and other glazed stoneware objects with copper green splashes over white slip, which were highly desirable in the Middle East, also known as West Asia, from the largest cache of this type of ware recorded to date. A Chinese blue-and-white stoneware dish, with a lozenge motif that was common in West Asia, is one of three from the shipwreck.
Asia Society Museum
From March 7 until June 4, 2017.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans contributed more than any other past civilization to the rise of time’s dominion over individual and public life. Adapting ideas from Egypt and Babylonia, they divided the day into hours, and invented sophisticated instruments and devices to mark their passage. Time and Cosmos will display over 100 objects, including ancient sundials, calendars, jewelry, and surveying instruments, and will be organized around two themes: the Tools of Time Reckoning, exploring the material resources that gave temporal structure to the daily life of private individuals as well as the community in such public spheres as religion, commerce, and law; and Reflections of Time and Cosmos, concerning ancient representations of time, the universe, and their power to shape the environment and human destiny.
Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University
Until April 23, 2017.
Protective amulets, incantation bowls, curse tablets, powerful rings, magical stones, and anatomical votives–these objects and more, once used by ancient peoples seeking to fulfill desires through supernatural means, are featured in Magic in the Ancient World. Deeply entwined with science and religion, magic was a real and everyday part of life for many ancient peoples around the world. Ancient magic addressed many of the dreams, hopes, and passions humans grapple with today: desire for health and well being, protection from evil—even revenge. Magic in the Ancient World takes a survey approach, featuring 81 artifacts from the Penn Museum’s collections. The exhibition explores some of the magical objects, words, and rituals used in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome.
Until September 4, 2017.
San Francisco, CA
On view for the first time in the U.S., 160 rare selections from recent excavations — including a jade coffin, rare bronze bells, elaborate crafts and much more — share the extravagance, artistry and elegance of Han royal clans. One of the most powerful civilizations of the ancient world, China’s Han dynasty achieved profound cultural and artistic influence, technological advancements and military might. Two thousand years later, discoveries of royal tombs allow us to glimpse these extraordinary accomplishments firsthand. Emulating their grand palaces, Han royals built lavishly furnished tombs so that, in the afterlife, no need would go unmet. Daily utensils, kitchen vessels, royal symbols, weaponry and even toiletries were all accounted for. And the nobility spared no expense preserving the tools of earthly pleasures — food, music, wine, sex — in anticipation of an afterlife to surpass this world. The Asian Art Museum is the only venue for this exhibition.
The Asian Art Museum
Until May 28, 2017.
Few countries have captured the world’s attention like Syria has today. Stories of conflict and displacement dominate the media and define people’s awareness of the place. Syria: A Living History brings together artifacts and artworks that tell a different story—one of cultural diversity, historical continuity, resourcefulness, and resilience. For over five millennia, this region perched on the eastern Mediterranean has witnessed great world civilizations co-mingling on its soil and producing art, literature, and culture that constitute the country’s rich legacy. Strongly informed by a distinctive landscape and history, artists of Syria throughout the ages have made priceless contributions to world heritage. Syria: A Living History inspires new understanding of Syria’s past and present, and invites new ways of thinking about its future.
Aga Khan Museum
Until March 26, 2017.
The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire explores the foundations of the Inka Road in earlier Andean cultures, technologies that made building the road possible, the cosmology and political organization of the Inka world, and the legacy of the Inka Empire during the colonial period and in the present day.
National Museum of the American Indian — Washington, DC
Until June 1, 2018.
Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan converts the Smithsonian’s International Gallery into a space that evokes the vibrant marketplace of Old Kabul with artisans demonstrating their skills in jewelry making, woodworking, calligraphy, ceramics, carpet weaving and other crafts. Afghanistan is located in the heart of ancient Silk Road trade routes, and for more than 3,500 years it blended traditions from India, Persia and Central Asia into a distinct artistic culture. Decades of civil unrest that began in the 1970s nearly destroyed this vital heritage. Artisans were often forced to leave their country or give up their craft. The Old City of Kabul — Murad Khani, the once bustling center of craft and commerce in Afghanistan’s largest metropolis — fell into ruin. To tell this transformative story of culture and heritage in Murad Khani, Afghan woodworkers have created magnificent wood arcades, screens, and a pavilion, all carved by hand from Himalayan cedar. Wander among these arcades and explore spectacular contemporary carpets, jewelry, and calligraphy, all complemented by videos and large-scale photographs of the Afghan artisans who made them. Artisans from Murad Khani are bringing the exhibition to life by demonstrating their art, sharing their experiences, and allowing visitors to encounter Afghanistan’s art and culture firsthand.
Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institute
Until October 29, 2017.
Set within a mysterious forest enter Warrior Treasures to be captivated by a dazzling collection of gold, silver and semi-precious gems from Anglo-Saxon weaponry. Damaged and fragmentary, these superbly crafted fittings were discarded, but who buried them? And did they intend to come back for them? The collection is part of the Staffordshire Hoard, considered one of the most significant Anglo-Saxon finds. It almost certainly represents the spoils of war, fought in an ancient kingdom during the 7th century CE. Don’t miss the opportunity to come up close to these magnificent treasures and discover how a sword was more than a weapon–it signified a warrior’s status, wealth, family and even religious beliefs. Through the research on the Hoard it has shed light on the ‘Dark Ages’ and brings to life the Old English poem Beowulf, in which great kings with hoards of gold bestow precious gifts upon loyal heroes. The secrets of the hoard are still being uncovered through painstaking research and on-going conservation.
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
Until April 23, 2017.
The most complete range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, will go on display alongside the story of this great feat of engineering in a major new exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. The construction of London’s newest railway, which will be known as the Elizabeth line when services begin in 2018, has given archaeologists a unique chance to explore some of the city’s most historically important sites. Since work began in 2009, the project has undertaken one of the most extensive archaeological programs ever in the UK, with over 10,000 artifacts shining a light on almost every important period of the Capital’s history. The wide variety of items on display will explore 8,000 years of human history, revealing the stories of Londoners ranging from Mesolithic tool makers and inhabitants of Roman Londinium to those affected by the Great Plague of 1665.
Museum of London Docklands
Until September 3, 2017.
Europe & Middle East
Dangerous Perfection: Ancient Funerary Vases from Apulia
The focal point of the exhibition is a group of 13 large, elaborately decorated vases from Ceglie del Campo near Bari in Apulia (southern Italy). As grave goods, they provide insight into the funerary customs of the indigenous population’s upper classes 2,500 years ago. The vessels are painted with a variety of scenes from Greek mythology, from sudden death in battle and war to a life of ease in Dionysian pastures. Damaged during the war and postwar period, they are now being exhibited again thanks to a six-year collaboration with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The project included careful conservation of the vessels — some in Los Angeles, others in Berlin — as well as research into the modern history of the group, which joined the holdings of the Berlin museums in 1828. In addition to offering exciting archaeological insights, the exhibition also sheds light on the first restoration treatment of the vases in the workshop of Raffaele Gargiulo, a Neapolitan restorer who added missing scenes with such mastery that contemporaries spoke of a “dangerous perfection” in his style: Gargiulo’s additions could no longer be distinguished from the ancient originals. (Nota Bene: The exhibition was shown at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles from November 19, 2014 to May 11, 2015.)
Until June 18, 2017.
This exhibition explores the discovery of a hoard of silver bracelets from Cushalogurt, Kilmeena, and a Viking sword found in the River Moy at Coolcronaun. This is the largest hoard of silver arm-rings found in Ireland. Find out about their discovery, their use as jewellery and currency and who might have buried them. The Viking sword, although corroded from over a millennium in the Moy, is a fine example of late 10th century craftsmanship and its conservation is revealing more details of its past. These objects give evidence of County Mayo’s rich Viking heritage.
National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, Turlough
Until December 31, 2017.
Presenting the most exquisite collection of ancient Greek pottery in Israel, this exhibition displays masterpieces of rare quality, ranging from the second millennium BCE to the end of the fifth century BCE. Some of these pottery vessels were designed to serve as water, oil and wine containers, others, the small jars and pots, were created to hold precious ointments and perfumes. These elaborate images provide us with valuable insights regarding the habits, customs, and crafts of the Ancient Greeks, and are perhaps the richest source of information on their lives that we have today. The exhibition is theme based: It offers an excellent explanation of the manufacturing and decoration techniques of Greek ceramics, showing how this style evolved over the years; however, the focus of the exhibition revolves around the elaborate narration of Greek mythology, its gods, and heroes.
Bible Lands Museum
Until April 31, 2017.
Over 300 works coming from the leading Mexican museums will be displayed at this exhibition. The three great periods — Pre-Classic, Classic and Post-Classic — in the history of these people are told through the works of art. The Maya civilization will also be recounted through the reconstructions of architectural solutions and through objects from daily life that have survived the millennia (necklaces, earrings, musical instruments, vases and incense burners).
Palazzo Della Gran Guardia
Until March 8, 2017.
The Museum Rietberg’s exhibition, Osiris: Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries, consists of three sections. The first presents the myth of Osiris and its protagonists. The second section is the most important and consists of the archaeological sites and evidence for the ritual of celebration of the mysteries of Osiris. In the third and last section, the visitor discovers how this ancient myth has evolved over time and space and how it was adapted at different sites, which explains the diversity of its representations. A spectacular display of changing mood, colors and lighting, underwater photographs and videos, the splendor of the objects discovered by the archaeologists and divers at the bottom of the sea is reflected in the masterpieces on loan from the museums of Egypt. Osiris: Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries is one of the highlights of the excavations directed by Franck Goddio in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities in the western part of the Nile delta. Some 300 objects are presented, all of which have traveled from Egypt. Most were discovered in the recent underwater excavations carried out by the IEASM, but they are augmented by some 40 splendid exhibits on loan from the museums of Cairo and Alexandria — rare objects which have never before been seen in a German-speaking country, and even some that have never been seen outside Egypt before.
Until July 16, 2017.
This eye-opening survey of the largely unknown ancient past of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia draws much on recently discovered archeological material. Roads of Arabia features objects excavated from several sites throughout the Arabian Peninsula, tracing the impact of ancient trade routes and pilgrimage roads stretching from Yemen in the south to Iraq, Syria and Mediterranean cultures in the north. Elegant alabaster bowls and fragile glassware, heavy gold earrings and Hellenistic bronze statues testify to a lively mercantile and cultural interchange among distant civilizations.
National Museum of China
Until March 19, 2017.
Calligraphy, or beautiful hand-writing, is considered the highest artistic achievement in many Asian cultures. Drawn from the Gallery’s collection and enriched with a significant loan from the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, this exhibition showcases diverse calligraphic traditions in both religious and secular contexts, across a range of mediums from the ancient to the contemporary. On display are treasures from the Chinese scholar’s desk such as brushes, pots and holders as well as exquisite works on paper, textiles and ceramics. The art of writing using brush and ink is a marker of cultivation and character for educated women and men in China, Korea and Japan. In the Islamic world, where writing the Arabic script is primarily associated with the Qur’an, the practice of calligraphy is seen as a way to express piety.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Until April 30, 2017.
Designated a World Heritage Site, Kasuga Taisha Shrine (Nara prefecture) was built at the beginning of the Nara period (710–794) in prayer for the protection of the capital and the prosperity of the people. From ancient times, the shrine revered deer as divine messengers of the gods. This exhibition presents masterpieces of decorative art in the collection of Kasuga Taisha, which is regarded as the “treasure trove” of the Heian period (794–1192). Other artworks on exhibit include a number of fine objects such as prized swords, arms, and armor from Japan’s medieval period, as well as paintings and sculptures associated with people’s faith in Kasugataisha Shrine.
Tokyo National Museum
Until March 12, 2017.
Nota Bene: Are you a museum press professional or curator that would like your exhibition to be included in Ancient History Encyclopedia’s monthly listing? If so, please contact our Communications/PR Team via email with the subject line “Museum Listings.” We would love to hear from you and include your show next month!