Kingdoms of the Iron Age
In the 8th century BC, major changes were under way in central Europe as iron-working technology developed and became the predominant material in making tools, weapons, jewellery, and more. This exhibition, organised by MAMUZ with the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien and Museumspartner, charts the transformations of the Early Iron Age in religion, artistry, economy, and society, paying special attention to the Hallstatt culture and the prosperous elite – who amassed wealth from trade – that emerged.
At the Austrian site of Hallstatt, excavations uncovered material pointing to a new culture, the eponymous Hallstatt. The funerary evidence there attested to a distinct social hierarchy, with those at the top buried in large mounds containing a lavish assortment of weapons, jewellery, ritual vessels, dining ware that would serve in the afterlife, and even goods imported from the Mediterranean. Yet beyond their grave goods that show off a level of wealth and connections, and references written in texts from ancient Mediterranean civilisations, little is known about these apparent leaders and the extent of their power.
Still, the finds from across central Europe featured in this exhibition, including recently unearthed artefacts like a pot with a face on it from Schöngrabern (Austria) that is on display for the first time, fascinate and impress. Among the highlights from Hallstatt period graves are a bronze mask and hands from Kleinklein in Austria, a figurine of a person playing the aulos from Százhalombatta in Hungary, a bronze bull from Býcí skála Cave in Czechia, and, from Glasinac in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a small votive chariot with two birds (likely ducks), cast in bronze but with iron axles.
MAMUZ Museum Mistelbach
Until 27 November 2022
The Fall of the Roman Empire
Established in the 1st century BC, the Roman city of Augusta Treverorum was an important economic and administrative centre for the empire, even becoming Constantius’ capital during the tetrarchy at the end of the 3rd century AD. Today, Trier’s Roman remains include an amphitheatre, a bridge across the River Moselle, a monumental city gate (the Porta Nigra), and a basilica built by Constantine. Against this rich backdrop, Trier is now playing host to a three-part exhibition investigating the fall of the Roman Empire, its legacy, and the rise of Christianity.
The exhibition at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum (The Fall of the Roman Empire) tells the story of the empire in the 4th and 5th centuries AD, as the power of the central imperial authority waned and regional rulers became formidable rivals. With a range of archaeological material, it considers the different factors that contributed to the fall of the once mighty empire, encompassing politics, economics, and migration, and also explores how certain Roman traditions either dwindled or continued into the medieval period.
Breaks and continuities in Roman ways of life are examined at the Museum am Dom, too, in an exhibition looking at the rise of Christianity and its part in this transformative period of history. Under the Sign of the Cross: a world reorders itself shows how the church exploited a power vacuum to become more active in the secular sphere and more influential politically. It pays special attention to Christianity up until the 7th century in the Moselle and Rhine region, with a number of artefacts from Trier on display. Among them are finds from early Christian burials below the former abbey church of St Maximin, including gold-embroidered garments, that shed light on the customs of the deceased.
Finally, Stadtmuseum Simeonstift (The Legacy of Rome: visions and myths in art) turns to the image of Rome in art and writing over time, and how the fall of the empire has been interpreted, from Christian authors of late antiquity to the present.
Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Museum Am Dom, and Stadtmuseum Simeonstift
Until 27 November 2022
Galloway Hoard: Viking-age Treasure
A selection of objects from the Galloway Hoard, buried around AD 900, is continuing its tour of Scotland with this display in Aberdeen. Ongoing research is revealing new details about the hoard and its Viking Age contents, which include silver bullion, an Anglo-Saxon cross, arm rings, beads, and an ornate rock-crystal jar. New findings will be explored in the Aberdeen exhibition; for instance, the results of research into the 12 different textiles identified in the hoard so far. It also includes new images of three gold filigree objects (below) that have been revealed from a textile bundle too fragile to travel. Normally described as aestels, these objects are thought to have been used as pointers for reading, but the Galloway Hoard ones were bound together with silk braids, leading the researchers to consider that they may have had a different purpose.
Aberdeen Art Gallery Until 23 October 2022 aberdeencity.gov.uk/AAGM
For the latest contemporary exhibition in the gallery space above London’s Mithraeum, artist Mariana Castillo Deball is presenting a site-specific installation that draws inspiration from the many seemingly discarded Roman objects that were uncovered during the excavations there. Castillo Deball has created ceramic versions of the finds and assembled these into huge columns in the gallery, which also incorporates a wax feature wall, an element influenced by the important wax writing tablets from the site.
London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE
Until 14 January 2023
Perhaps best known for blowing up a shed (Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991), contemporary artist Cornelia Parker’s varied work shows a great interest in the history of objects and the processes of making and unmaking. For instance, she makes use of items confiscated by UK customs officials, and has taken photographs of the clouds above the Imperial War Museum in London using a camera in their collection, once owned by an Auschwitz commandant. Photographs, drawings, film, sculpture, and an embroidery of the Wikipedia article about Magna Carta are on display in this exhibition, as well as Parker’s installations. Among these are War Room (2015), a work Parker was asked to make as a reflection on the First World War. Red paper negatives from the production of remembrance poppies hang from the ceiling and the walls like a tent (below). Another installation is a special commission for the exhibition featuring a dramatically lit greenhouse that stands on a floor of Victorian encaustic tiles salvaged during restoration work at the Palace of Westminster.
Tate Britain, London
Until 16 October 2022
There is more to a book than words on the pages, as this exhibition showcasing the sensory appeal of the physical book sets out to demonstrate. Many devourers of old books will be familiar with the distinct smell and the texture and rustling of pages in the simple act of reading, but as this fascinating range of books highlights, some books play with our senses in special ways. A 14th-century psalter on display was actively used in devotions; on one illumination, marks are visible revealing how a reader touched the page to guide a soul towards heaven in the image. Other interesting books include a 1518 missal printed partly on silk, with bookmarks poking out from its pages emphasising its tactile qualities (below), Andy Warhol’s 1967 Index, which came with a record of a Velvet Underground and Nico song and a sheet of LSD stamps, and Ben Denzer’s 20 Slices of American Cheese (2018), made, as the name suggests, from plastic-wrapped slices of American cheese.
The exhibition also features an audio-guide produced in partnership with people who are visually impaired, to explore reading when a sense is changed.
Bodleian Libraries, Oxford
Until 4 December 2022
Mediterranean Marketplaces: Connecting the Ancient World
The recently renamed Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East opened a new permanent exhibition at the end of last year in the midst of various COVID-19 precautions. Highlighting the complexity of the trade networks that supplied marketplaces around the ancient Mediterranean, the exhibition brings together artefacts (some on display for the very first time or for the first time since the 1950s) and new digital displays that allow visitors to look even closer at the objects. (3D models of over 60 objects have also been made available at sketchfab.com/hmane/collections/mediterranean-marketplaces). Examples of ceramic, glass (including the 2nd-3rd century AD purple glass grape vase shown right), and metalwork exchanged across the Mediterranean are on view, as are coins and tablets that provide an insight into the administrative aspect of commerce.
Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cy Twombly: Making Past Present
American artist Cy Twombly (1928-2011) spent much of his life in Rome. Choosing to avoid well-known hubs of modern art like New York, he moved to Italy in 1959, where he immersed himself in ancient sculpture and monuments. This exhibition, organised with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, reveals how Twombly’s lifelong interest in the ancient Mediterranean played a critical part in his work, with lively, explosive large-scale paintings that brought the ancient world into late 20th-century modernism. Joining the paintings are drawings, prints, sculptures, photography, and ancient marbles and bronzes from the artist’s collection. It was not just the art of ancient Greece and Rome that inspired Twombly; he read Greek and Latin poetry, and from the 1960s started to include the names of poets and snippets of verses in his work, with varying degrees of legibility.
Getty Center, Los Angeles, California
Until 30 October 2022
Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color
Visitors to the Met’s Greek and Roman galleries will be able to see ancient sculpture in a new light as colourful reconstructions by Vinzenz Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann of the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection go on view alongside comparable artefacts in the permanent displays. As well as showcasing the reconstructions, which draw attention to the full vibrant colour and rich, detailed ornamentation that would have covered sculptures like the c.540 BC marble funerary statue of Phrasikleia (right is the statue’s reconstruction in the gallery) and the Met’s own Archaic sphinx finial, the exhibition explores research into polychromy, presenting new findings from the museum’s collections.
In the Greek and Roman special exhibition gallery, the subject is investigated further through works including ancient vases decorated with images of polychrome sculpture and artists painting their sculptures, and an early reconstruction in watercolour of the colour on architectural sculpture from the Athenian acropolis.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Until 26 March 2023
Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs
More than 180 objects from Egypt are stopping off at San Francisco on their international tour. The exhibition, produced by World Heritage Exhibitions in partnership with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, examines the life and times of Ramses II. Known as Ramses the Great, this famous figure of the New Kingdom was a prolific military commander and the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty, ruling over a wealthy and powerful empire for an impressive 67 years. Artefacts on display include colossal statues of Ramses, who set up large numbers of towering likenesses of himself (such as the 1.95m-tall limestone example from Ashmunein shown below), and jewellery, gold funerary masks, and other objects from royal tombs in Egypt that offer a glimpse of the riches Ramses himself (whose tomb was looted in antiquity) must have been buried with.
de Young museum, San Francisco, California
20 August 2022 to 12 February 2023
The Renaissance in the North: New Prints and Perspectives
Some 30 recent acquisitions by the National Gallery of Art are on display in this exhibition that puts northern European printmaking of the late 15th and 16th centuries in the spotlight. The portability and relative low costs of prints meant that, whether they were creating portraits of powerful figures like Emperor Maximilian I or influential thinkers like Martin Luther, allegorical compositions, or religious scenes, artists could exploit multiplied images to spread their works to a growing international audience and secure their fame. The works on view show different aspects of printmaking, including enhancing images with hand colouring, the use of monograms to make a name for oneself, and the collaborative aspect of the work. Among the highlights are Erhard Schön’s vast woodcut Army Train and Death (c.1532), depicting a procession of mercenary soldiers, Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Saint Jerome Penitent in the Wilderness (c.1496), and the 1592 engraving The Triumph of Galatea by Hendrick Goltzius, who travelled to Italy and adroitly capture Raphael’s fresco in Rome.
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Until 27 November 2022
The Etruscans: A Mediterranean Civilisation
From the 9th century BC, the Etruscan civilisation emerged in central Italy, in territory covering Tuscany, Umbria, and Latium. For centuries they thrived, reaching their zenith between the 7th and 5th centuries and interacting with other cultures around the coasts of the Mediterranean, before falling to Rome gradually between the 4th and 1st centuries BC. This exhibition celebrates the achievements of the Etruscans: the skill of the sailors, the technical expertise and sophistication of their artisans, their architecture and planning, and the indelible mark they left on Roman culture. Many aspects of Etruscan life – from religion and funerary beliefs to trade, politics, and the important role of women in daily life – are explored through artefacts on loan from a number of museums (in particular, the National Archaeological Museum in Florence and the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum in Volterra), as well as objects in the Campana collection at Musée de la Romanité. Among the exhibits are armour, jewellery, statuettes, sculpted cinerary urns, and this beautiful bronze and silver container, or pyxis, from Volterra (above right).
Musée de la Romanité, Nimes
Until 23 October 2022
Think Big! Gail Rothschild Paints Portraits of Late Antique Egyptian Textiles
Around 2,000 pieces of ornate and brightly coloured textiles from late antique Egypt are preserved in Berlin’s Museum für Byzantinische Kunst. Some of these are small fragments of tapestries from the 4th-9th centuries AD, which have now been juxtaposed with large-scale works by contemporary artist Gail Rothschild, creating a dynamic play between old and new, big and small. Rothschild visited the Bode Museum in 2019 and, having encountered these fragile artefacts from Egypt with their varied imagery, became inspired to create a new series of monumental paintings in acrylic that cast the ancient material in vibrant new light.
Bode Museum, Berlin
Until 31 October 2022
Beyond Hellas: Santiago Calatrava in the Glyptothek
Architect Santiago Calatrava has an impressive CV, with previous buildings including the ‘Turning Torso’ skyscraper in Mälmo, the World Trade Center train station in Manhattan, and the City of Arts and Sciences in his native Valencia. For this exhibition, a collaboration between the Glyptothek in Munich and the Santiago Calatrava studio, he has turned his eye to something different: the stunning Archaic sculptures from the pediments of the Temple of Aphaia on the Greek island of Aegina. Displayed alongside the sculptures of warriors from the temple, which Calatrava describes as possessing ‘an unexpected modernity’, is the architect’s own sculptural series of 14 imposing wrought-iron figures on old oak plinths (Aegineten 275 J, 2021, is shown right), as well as drawings and watercolours reflecting his interest in nature and the human body.
Until 23 October 2022
Art & Power: From Pharaohs to DaimyOs. Masterworks from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Art is one way in which rulers have projected power, asserted their authority, and exercised their wealth and privilege throughout history, whether through commissioning stately portraits, collecting works and patronising leading artists, or through generous diplomatic gifts. This exhibition investigates the relationship between art and power with a range of works from Egypt, India, China, Japan, and elsewhere. Among them are Anthony van Dyck’s 1637 portrait of Princess Mary, daughter of Charles I, swords from 13th-century Japan, and an exquisite Edo period scroll, Peafowls and Flowers, by the daimyo (feudal lord) of Nagashima, Mashiyama Sessai, which has been restored for the exhibition.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
Until 2 October 2022
Under the spell of Mount Ararat: Treasures from ancient Armenia
This exhibition, delayed due to COVID-19, showcases spectacular objects from ancient Armenia, with the History Museum of Armenia loaning highlights from its collection. Bronze Age Armenia and the kingdom of Urartu (3400-600 BC) are in the spotlight, represented by finds from the cities of Erebuni and Teishebaini and from large burial mounds. Animal imagery abounds in the artefacts on view. Goats, red deer (symbolising the sun), lions (symbolising power and authority), wolves, snakes, and birds are among those that appear in ceramics, in bronze figurines, and in gold bowls like the one found in a 2100-1800 BC burial at Vanadzor (above). More recent works are also included, such as an ornate 19th-century relic said to contain a piece of wood from Noah’s Ark. According to tradition, the Ark landed on Mount Ararat in what is now Turkey, and it was from Noah’s son Jarpeth that the founding father of the Armenians, Hayk, descended.
Drents Museum, Assen
Until 30 October 2022