From When The Greeks Ruled Egypt at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World and Ancient Lives, New Discoveries at the British Museum, to Ethereal at the Leila Heller Gallery, antiquities and South Asian art take centre stage in our winter edit of exhibitions.
This monumental retrospective on the seminal Indian Modernist V. S. Gaitonde was met with tremendous excitement in late October, at its well-attended opening and media preview. An international crowd of visitors gathered to celebrate the inauguration of not only the artist’s first solo museum exhibition, but also an electric moment in the Western world’s relationship with Indian Modernism. Comprising works from around the world, from both private and institutional collections, this exhibition shows an unprecedented focus on India’s vibrant art scene.
By spotlighting an artist who worked in Mumbai, curator Sandhini Poddar has introduced a new international audience to artistic movements which originated from one of India’s major cosmopolitan centres. Moreover, this exhibition is a rare opportunity to experience the work of an artist whose painstaking technique resulted in the production of a limited and exceptional oeuvre.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE
This groundbreaking exhibition, curated by Christie’s International Director of Asian Art Dr Amin Jaffer, presents works by 16 artists from South Asia, with a focus on innovators from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
The exhibition departs from traditional representations of South Asian art as exotica, instead showcasing introspective explorations of art, beauty and spirituality. Shilpa Gupta’s Untitled (Holy Waters) (2012) presents waters held to be sacred by different faiths. Rashid Rana examines the deception of vision and the complexity of perception. News-Archive Video-Still of Dead Birds Flying (2006), at first glance, seems to be a representation of a bird in flight. Closer examination reveals that tiny photographs of caged birds comprise the body of the bird. Running until 13 December 2014, this exhibition also presents Ali Kazim’s contemplation of the quiet before the storm, Untitled (Self Portrait with Cloud) (2014).
When the Greeks Ruled Egypt examines the fascinating interplay between Greek and Egyptian cultures from the 4th to the 1st century B.C.. The dynasty was founded by Ptolemy I Soter, one of Alexander the Great’s generals, who seized control of Egypt following the death of the Macedonian king in 323 B.C.. This exhibition features 150 works of art, many of them masterpieces, loaned from several prominent U.S. institutions. There is also an extraordinary array of ancient texts written on papyrus which illuminate the daily life of typical Egyptian citizens.
This beautiful exhibition presents the history of Egypt through the discoveries made around eight mummies. The mummies range in date from the Predynastic period (4000–3000 B.C.) to the Roman period, 3rd century A.D.. Using x-ray technology, experts at the British Museum have been able to look beneath the surface of the bandages and study the funerary rituals and equipment without disturbing the mummified remains. This new-found knowledge was then used to reconstruct the lives of the eight Egyptians whose mummies are now in the museum’s collection.
Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age explores the Assyrian Empire of the 8th and 7th centuries B.C.. The largest Empire to date, stretching from present day Northern Iraq to the Mediterranean, Assyria was a powerful force and a leader in the region. Conflict with the Phoenician city-states in the Levant (present day Israel and surrounding regions) resulted in the Phoenicians strengthening their maritime trade networks to the west, thereby establishing connections which extended to the northern coast of Africa. This led to a diffusion of cultures, materials and artistic traditions, which can be seen in the works of art on display.
Highlights of the exhibition, which features over 250 pieces, include an exquisite ivory, carnelian, lapis lazuli and gold furniture fitting from 9th – 8th century B.C., an inscribed Elephant tusk dating from 7th – 6th century B.C., and a 9th century B.C. ‘House of David’ stele with a 13-line fragmentary inscription which corroborates several biblical events.
On 8 October, the New York Antiquities department co-hosted a tour of the Jeff Koons retrospective exhibition at the Whitney (now showing at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris) with Harrison Tenzer, a specialist in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art department. Koons used ancient Mediterranean and European art as inspiration and subject matter for several series throughout his career, and as such we felt that this exhibit was a great opportunity to open a dialogue about the interplay between the two artistic periods.
Our tour guide was Laura Phipps, a member of the Whitney’s curatorial staff who worked on the exhibit for two years, and her intimate knowledge of both the exhibit and the artist himself provided a wonderful starting point from which our specialists were able to make observations regarding Koons’ relationship with the art of Ancient Greece and Rome.
Particularly evocative are Koons’ two later series, one aptly entitled Antiquity, the other, the Gazing Ball series. The latter features almost exact reproductions of both the Belvedere torso and the Farnese Hercules, with glass balls. In the Antiquity series, Koons uses models such as the Venus of Willendorf and Praxiletes’ Aphrodite of Cnidus to create diverse works that range in media from the famous stainless steel ‘balloon sculptures’ to oil painting.