Ancient Greeks inspire museum’s next summer blockbuster

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PHILHELLENES of Canberra are in a lather of excitement at news that the National Museum of Australia, flushed with the success of “Rome: City and Empire”, is bringing in another classic from the British Museum, “Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes”.

Panathenaic amphora, Athens, 333-332, British Museum

This time the National Museum of Australia, the Western Australian Museum and the Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum are joining to bring the show to the region.

Chief executive of war museum in Auckland, David Gaimster, noted that in the 90th anniversary of Auckland War Memorial Museum in Auckland Domain, “the influence of the ancient Greeks can be seen at this very site, reflected in the architecture of this iconic heritage building.”

Featuring some 170 objects which explore the theme of competition through sports, politics, drama, music and warfare, key artefacts in the show will include black and red ceramic depictions of athletes, gods and citizens and  marble and terracotta statues and reliefs, including fine nudes, as well as bronze figurines, weapons and armour, toys and games, gold jewellery and coins.

The show will open in New Zealand before arriving at the National Museum from December 4, 2020 to become the NMA’s summer blockbuster. The exhibition will then move to Western Australia.

Drawing a long bow, museum staff are saying: “Opening at the end of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics year, the exhibition highlights the theme of competition and explores its role as a force for innovation and excellence.”

NMA director Mathew Trinca said the unique three-way collaboration was a model for future agreements, allowing cultural institutions to pool and leverage their resources.

British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said: ‘‘The objects have enlightened our understanding of the ancient Greek world and have been brought together to tell a unique story for this exhibition.”

The exhibition is the fourth in a series of British Museum exhibitions that have featured at the National Museum, following “Rome: City and Empire” (2018), “A History of the World in 100 Objects” (2016) and “Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum” (2015).

Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes.” National Museum of Australia, December 4, 2020 to April 27, 2021.


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