By Gordon Gage
Once again The Winnipeg Art Gallery will be raising the bar for blockbuster style exhibitions when it opens Olympus: The Greco-Roman Collections of Berlin on April 26. This is the chance for people here to mix with the immortals whose names are known to all – Zeus, Aphrodite, Poseidon, Hera, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus, Hermes, Hades and Asclepius.
A rare opportunity
Over 160 masterpieces – statues, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, amulets – from the Berlin State Museums’ vast Classical Antiquities collection will be on display in this special exhibition, which will have a year-long showing at the WAG. The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Berlin Antiquity Museum and under the honorary patronage of:
- Hon. Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and Minister Responsible for Manitoba
- His Excellency Werner Franz Wnendt, German ambassador to Canada
- His Excellency George L. Marcantonatos, Greek ambassador to Canada
- His Excellency Gian Lorenzo Cornado, Italian ambassador to Canada
Greek mythology has been with us through many ages, and this exhibition will help us understand how these gods and goddesses have maintained their special relationships with mortals, influencing religion, architecture, sculpture, painting, theatre and more.
Olympus will be the first display of classical antiquities in Winnipeg in over half a century. “This will be the kind of exhibit rarely seen outside Europe,” says Dr. Stephen Borys, the WAG’s director and CEO. In fact, the WAG is one of only two galleries in North America that is showcasing this fragile collection.
“From a logistics and a diplomatic point of view, these works rarely ever leave Germany or Europe. So to convince (the Berlin State Museums) to lend was one thing. But then the task was to get them here safely; the Germans would not allow these works to travel any distance by surface transportation. So it had to be by air,” Borys explains.
Through the eyes of the Greeks
The artifacts presented in the exhibition all come from the Greco-Roman Collections of the Berlin Antiquity Museum (Antikensammlung Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), which boasts one of the biggest, most prestigious collections of Greco-Roman art. The collection is known the world over for its singular historic, cultural and artistic value. Among the one-of-a-kind treasures on display are a sculpture of the head of the “Dresden Zeus” (second century AD, based on an original Greek model dating back to circa 440 to 420 BC), a neck amphora decorated with a scene of Heracles and the Erymanthian Boar (sixth century BC), the torso of a statue of the goddess Artemis (150 AD, based on an original dating back to 320 BC), a bronze statuette of the god Apollo (first century BC) and a marble relief depicting winged Victory sacrificing a bull (first century BC). The exhibition also presents a variety of other wondrous objects, from jewels to ceramics, vases, amulets and more.
Originating in the 17th century with the Electors of Brandenburg, the collection was built over three centuries from archaeological excavations in Italy, Greece and Asia Minor from such sites as Olympia in 1845, Vulci in 1852, and Pergamon in 1878. This is a unique opportunity to see an astonishing number of representations of Greek and Roman gods and other classical personalities in artworks of exceedingly high quality, known for their historic, cultural and aesthetic merit: marble statues and reliefs, bronze statuettes, terracotta vases and jewellery.
Olympus explores the fascinating world of classical Greek and Roman art, mythology and religion, reflecting the universal preoccupation with creation, the nature of deities and humankind, and the afterlife. Discover the 12 Olympian gods – the Dodekatheon – and learn about their personalities, attributes and deeds through representation in stone, bronze and terracotta.
A long-standing source of inspiration for the world, these myths have been renewed and interpreted with infinite variations, expressed in exciting and challenging new ways through literature, visual art, music, dance and film.
Olympus will feature multimedia displays throughout the exhibition to further engage visitors of all ages. This is an exceptional and rare opportunity not only to view ancient artifacts from lands far away but also a chance to learn more about how the influence of these immortals carried forward throughout the ages.
Olympus: The Greco-Roman Collections of Berlin opens at the Winnipeg Art Gallery April 26, closing April 27 next year.