Experiential Spaces and Renewed Interpretation to Provide Contemporary Perspectives
More than 500 Newly Conserved Objects Across Media to Bring the Ancient World to Life
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is undergoing a major renovation and reinstallation of four galleries at the heart of the George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World, which will display nearly 500 objects ranging from the beginnings of Greek art (about 1100 B.C.E.) through the fall of Constantinople in the 15th century and into the present day. Scheduled to open in spring 2021, this project will create a grand entry for visitors to the MFA’s renowned collection of Classical art—one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world. The galleries will showcase iconic highlights of the collection, including many objects that have not been on view, adding to a renovated suite of 11 Classical galleries completed since 2009—most recently Daily Life in Ancient Greece. The renovations are made possible by a broad coalition of 24 donors, led by George D. and Margo Behrakis, The Krupp Family Foundation, Richard and Nancy Lubin and an anonymous donor.
“The MFA’s Greek, Roman and Byzantine collections are foundational to this Museum,” said Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director. “These new galleries will bring to life the richness of Classical art, providing contemporary perspectives on the era’s profound legacy. Original interpretation will allow us to have conversations across time and geography, exploring themes that remain central to our society today, including democracy, religion, philosophy and literature.”
The new galleries will align with the Museum’s long-standing mission to bring art and people together, and to encourage inquiry, understanding and appreciation of visual language. A popular destination for school groups, new interpretation will engage a wider range of students, many of whom have different learning styles, backgrounds and experiences—making the objects more accessible to the next generation of museumgoers. Narratives throughout the galleries will examine contemporary issues through the lens of the past, asking questions about what it means to be an enlightened citizen, what role religion plays within society, and why the mythical world is an enduring source of fascination—then and now. Additionally, every object will be documented, cleaned and conserved before going on view. Highlights of the four new spaces include:
- Anchored by the Museum’s beloved 13-foot Juno statue, a highlight of the renovation is a new gallery dedicated to “Gods and Goddesses,” which will re-create the atmosphere of a temple. Featuring large-scale sculptures as well as more intimate objects ranging in date from the 5th century B.C.E. to the 3rd century C.E., the immersive space will introduce the personalities, feats and fates of the deities the Greeks and Romans worshiped, and explore ancient religious practices.
- A Byzantine gallery, the first of its kind in New England, will cover a geographically diverse collection of works ranging in origin from the era of Emperor Constantine the Great in the 4th century to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This includes the 15th-century Monopoli altar, which will be on view for the first time after undergoing major conservation. Evocative of an altar in an early Byzantine church, the space will feature a soundscape reflecting liturgical chants.
- A gallery exploring Early Greek Art—a major strength of the MFA’s collection—from its beginnings in the wake of Mycenae (about 1100 B.C.E.) to the Persian Wars (480/479 B.C.E.) includes the Mantiklos Apollo, the most famous object in the MFA’s Greek collection.
- A gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art will demonstrate connections between the art of the late 19th–early 21st centuries and the Classical world.
“It is truly gratifying to activate our Greek and Roman collections through new scholarship and ideas,” said Christine Kondoleon, George D. and Margo Behrakis Chair, Art of Ancient Greece and Rome. “Many of these works are among the oldest in the collection, yet they will create connections between cultures past and present—reminding us that we are a global museum. As the ‘Athens of America,’ Boston deserves the best presentation of these renowned works of art.”Continue reading