New York.- Vicki James Yiannias
The case for the Reunification of the Marbles rages on. Two months after Greece’s formal request to UNESCO to mediate the return of the Parthenon Marbles, the British government has not yet responded., Additional fuel was recently added to the fire, when in an unprecedented move the British Museum loaned out a pedimental sculpture from the Parthenon. The reclining river-god thought to be Illisos–whose subtly rippling muscles seem to bring him to life–was shipped to the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg until January 2015.
As we await the hoped-for and seemingly inevitable Reunification of the Marbles public sentiment increasingly supports this vision and more and more attention is paid to the beauty and meaning of the monuments of the Athenian Acropolis.
One such homage to the Athenian Acropolis, “the most ambitious building program in Greek history… a monumental landscape of such unique beauty that it has inspired the world for more than 2,500 years”, as stated in the announcement of the National Hellenic Museum’s (NHMC) exhibition, “The Periklean Akropolis: From Antiquity to Modernity”.
“The Periklean Akropolis: From Antiquity to Modernity” on view until June 15 2015, is a collaboration with the Notre Dame University School of Architecture with the generous sponsorship of District 13 of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA).
The collaboration of the National Hellenic Museum and the Notre Dame University School of Architecture is the result of a longstanding interchange of ideas with the professors and doctoral students of the school, Chris Helms, Assistant Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the National Hellenic Museum told the GN in a telephone interview. “The idea for this exhibit grew organically out of our desire to work together.”
“The exhibit talks about the concept of monumentality and how the Acropolis is the embodiment of not just ancient Athenian understanding of the gods, but also a manifestation of how they thought about themselves, how they viewed themselves, so we took that concept and tried to run with it,” Mr. Helms explained. “Our goal in the overall narrative of the text and copy of the exhibit, and many of the images and artifacts, is to help further that point that architecture. And specifically in this case, the Acropolis, is a reflection of the people that create it.”
Toward the same end the profound impact of the Acropolis in the U.S. is shown in the exhibit through images of iconic American landmarks such as the Library of Congress, the Lincoln Memorial, the Supreme Court, the White House, Chicago’s Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry. Also featured in the exhibition are images of modern day Athens which show how classical art and architecture were used to create a sense of a national Greek identity in the 19th century.
“We looked at the exhibit from the lens of how Classical architecture changed over the years, how it was used, but also how it is still used as a way to express people’s ideology about who they are and what these buildings stand for,” said Helms.
Asked which of the displays in the exhibit appeal to him the most Helms replied, “We have a really interesting recreation of a corner of the Parthenon made in wood by a Notre Dame graduate student. It’s a highly-detailed recreation of almost every aspect of a corner of the actual building; the columns, the pediments, the tiles on the roof. You can step into it and see what the roof, etc. looked like from the inside. I’d say that’s one of cooler pieces in the show.” He added that the approximately 6 ‘ high, 4 ‘ wide and deep piece is also “one of the hardest pieces in the show to move!”
The piece just described shows only a tiny part of the frieze, but another of the displays is a 4’ long, 3 1/2‘ high plaster cast of part of the frieze. Helms noted that this cast is white because the museum is planning an upcoming exhibit on the colorization of Ancient Greek and Roman artifacts for later this year so they didn’t want this exhibit to touch on the topic of color.
There are also drawings by renowned architect and archaeologist Manolis Korres, former head of the Parthenon Restoration Project, that depict the manner in which massive blocks of marble were quarried and transferred from Mount Pentelicon across the city of Athens and to the top of the Acropolis.
This exhibition was put up in conjunction with the exhibitions “Gods, Myths, and Monsters” and “Street Art”, in a turnover of exhibitions throughout the whole building, said Helms, causing a huge uptake in attendance. “There are displays that kids can interact with, some higher concept displays for adults that involve understanding the concept of self, etc., some media, audio-visual components. This variety draws in a broad audience and a lot of people. We usually have a clearly defined image of who the exhibit is supposed to target and put up exhibits that focus on one or two demographic groups. But we cast a wide net with this one, and it seems to be working.”
The exhibition was curated by:
Prof. Robin Rhodes, Department of Art, Art History, and Design School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame
Dr. Michael Lykoudis, Francis and Kathleen Rooney Dean School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame.