Posts Tagged ‘art exhibitions / art museums / art shows’

As a former Classics minor and regular museum attendee of minor prestige, I have off-and-on read bits and pieces about how ancient sculpture was anything but monochromatic. If you go to museums these days you start to notice casts of color on ancient objects more than ever before, either because of the buzz about the topic and/or because these pieces are now being showcased.

It’s one of those times of year I wish I was visiting NYC. I spent a lovely summer there long ago and used to visit now and then when I knew people who lived there. Add to that an out-of-the-blue recent conversation I had on a cool New York Public Library exhibition of their collection’s treasures. And then there’s this article from yesterday’s New York Times on the Met’s “Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color” show, which features “colorized” versions of ancient sculptures, a public culmination of the studies of the Brinkmanns, a scholarly couple who have been at this for decades. Well, it makes me wish I could hop on planes and trains like I used to, or at least makes me think about studying something interesting like this in depth.

The article covers a lot of ground on ancient polychromy, including a new angle I’d not encountered, namely that by seeing only monochromatic (usually white/whitish marble) human figures in ancient art, our aesthetic and racial views of the world are significantly affected. Check this out for more on that.

Well, that’s plenty of links for you to peruse. But what really intrigued me about the Times article was this:

“However, some historians worry that the Met Museum has elevated the increasingly ubiquitous Brinkmann replicas to an iconic status that is becoming the default representation of ancient polychromy, when the couple’s research is just one among dozens of competing theories. The debate now encompasses more than a disagreement about pigments and scientific method; some academics see the reconstructions as a larger discussion on who gets to define the past.”

As much as I’d like to see the Chroma exhibit in person—and there’s a lot to it, including a fascinating glossary that includes ancient pigments—what I’d really love to see is an exhibit covering these dozens of competing theories, including replicas, succinct write-ups, lectures, evidence, etc. Maybe Chroma will feature some of this—I have not consulted its calendar. I can always resort to books and journals, but what a wonder such an exhibit would be. For that I would hop on the next plane and figure out somewhere and some way to stay in New York for a spell.

Ancient statue of a woman with blue and gilt garment, fan and sun hat, from Tanagra, Greece, 325–300 B.C. Exhibited in Berlin’s Altes Museum. Source: Wikipedia.

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