New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Since the opening of the exhibition Classical Memories in Modern Greek Art, the major feature of the inauguration of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation in the Olympic Towers, on October 24, 2000, with then Executive Director Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, the Onassis Cultural Center has presented major historical and culturally significant exhibitions that contribute to scholarship and educate and thrill the public. Amazingly, the exhibitions are free admission, embodying an ideal: access to high-level culture for everyone.
On March 8, Amalia Cosmetatou, present Executive Director Executive of the Onassis Cultural Foundation will introduce the new, greatly anticipated 2017 exhibition, A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD, on view from March 9 through June 24. As reflected in its title, this exhibition brings attention to an entirely different topic than previous exhibitions: human emotions. the show explores ideas and attitudes toward emotion and the ways in which the emotions were depicted in classical antiquity, studying ancient artifacts that include life-size statues from the Acropolis, relief carvings from cemeteries, theatrical masks, amulets, coins, and votive offerings from the early 7th century BC to the late 2nd century AD brought to New York specifically for this exhibition.
Noting that A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD Dr. Anthony Papadimitriou, President of the Onassis Foundation has said that, “A World of Emotions and the programs that accompany it are powerful expressions of the mission of the Onassis Foundation: to support initiatives in education and culture to achieve social cohesion.”
In the jewel-like galleries of the Onassis Cultural Center, where less space has always stood for quality through superb curation and installation that affords optimal viewing pleasure and promotes cultural and historical understanding, the importance of the Onassis Cultural Center exhibitions greatly exceeds their size.
Following in that tradition are the 130 masterpieces—surely be beautifully accommodated—in the A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD “Thanks to the brilliant work of our guest curators, A World of Emotions will make an important new contribution to scholarship, while bringing the public into the presence of objects that still have the power to move and astonish more than 2,000 years after they were made,” says Cosmetatou, speaking of the exhibition’s team of esteemed guest curators.
Also in the tradition of previous exhibitions, some of the soon-to-be-displayed works in A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD are first-time visitors to the US, indeed, some have before never been seen outside of Greece. Leading international museums such as the Acropolis Museum and National Archaeological Museum in Athens; the Musée du Louvre (Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities), the British Museum, London; and the Musei Vatican in Vatican City are their points of departure.
The press release of the exhibition summarizes its premise, saying that “Theoretical writings about human emotions date back to ancient Greece itself. Only within the past few decades, however, have scholars begun to investigate emotional life as a force that shapes societies, influences historical processes, and varies in different contexts—giving rise, for example, to such unique characteristics of ancient Greece as the belief that figures such as Eros (love) and Phobos (fear) were not just representations of emotions but actual gods to be supplicated or placated. These investigations face an inherent challenge, however, since the principal medium for research—textual evidence—is often a thin source, composed to filter, disguise, or even mute emotions as much as to reveal or arouse them. A World of Emotions expands the possibilities of a history of emotions in classical antiquity by going beyond literary texts and inscriptions to include the evidence of the visual arts.” Every historical event is related to emotion.
In paraphrase, the distinguished historian Angelos Chaniotis, co-curator of the exhibition says that while we cannot directly study neurobiological processes in ancient Greece, we can see how “social norms, religious beliefs, philosophical ideas, and education determined the manifestations of emotions, and how emotions in turn determined social interaction, political behavior, and religious practice…This is our gain from studying emotions in the Greek world. What we learn about emotions in one culture and one historical period helps us understand another. It sharpens our mind to reflect on our lives and our world.”
Some of the emotions studied in the exhibition, the announcement of the show says tantalizingly, “are strikingly familiar to us and some shockingly alien”. We’ll be the first waiting at the gate of the exhibition to enter that world of what may be a far different reality than the one we know, or a world in which we might feel at home, where we are all the same, with innate emotions that are universal. Either way—or both simultaneously—this exhibition is bound to be, as Amalia Cosmetatou says, much more than “a rare and thoughtful thematic gathering of beautiful and fascinating objects from the ancient world… it is also a contribution toward a better understanding of our present-day reality.”
A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD
Onassis Cultural Center, 645 Fifth Avenue, Suite 304, New York, N.Y 10022
March 9 – June 24, 2017
Monday – Saturday: 10am to 6pm
Thursday until 9pm
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 1:00pm
Admission and exhibition tours are FREE
The exhibition is curated for the Onassis Cultural Center New York by Angelos Chaniotis, Professor of Ancient History and Classics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; Nikolaos Kaltsas, Director Emeritus, National Archaeological Museum, Athens; and Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Associate Professor of Ancient Greek Art and Archaeology, Columbia University. Another anticipated characteristic of the great exhibitions at the Onassis Cultural Center will be the collectable, fully-illustrated catalogue of the exhibition featuring essays by scholars. There will also be public programs, some of them held off-site in collaboration with BAM and LIVE from the NYPL. There will also be Family Sundays at the Onassis Cultural Center New York monthly.