May 3, 2004

Greek, Roman Carlos Museum galleries to get summertime facelift   

By Allison Germaneso Dixon

In recent years, the Carlos Museum has transformed its permanent galleries of ancient Egyptian, ancient American and African art. Now, the museum’s signature classical art collection is about to undergo its own dramatic metamorphosis.

When the Carlos’ building (designed by renowned architect Michael Graves) opened in 1993, the works of Greek and Roman art displayed in the central gallery were few and consisted largely of temporary loans. But after its namesake Michael Carlos pledged $10 million in 1999 for classical acquisitions, the museum hired a classical-art curator, Jasper Gaunt, to steward the collection and seek out the best possible new additions.

The collection’s rapid growth in size and quality is the impetus for the dramatic renovation and reinstallation taking place this summer. The classical art galleries will close after Commencement on Monday, May 10, and are scheduled to reopen Sept. 18. All of the museum’s other exhibitions and facilities will remain open during the renovation.

“Through the generosity and courage of Mrs. [Thalia] Carlos, who has continued to advance the vision of her late husband, we have been able to acquire Greek and Roman antiquities whose quality and significance are without parallel in any collection in Atlanta, public or private,” Gaunt said. “In more than a few cases, the Carlos now has the finest examples in America—and, in the case of our portrait of the Roman emperor Tiberius, in the world.”

The renovated galleries will present the collections to their best advantage. Many important acquisitions made in the last several years will be displayed for the first time and many have undergone revealing conservation treatments. Architectural adjustments include provision for large new niches for sculpture, and new lighting in combination with new colors and fabrics will flatter the objects as never before.

When it reopens, the large central gallery known as Carlos Court will display some of the largest and most significant objects of Greek and Roman art in the collection. The Laszlo-Brummer Gallery will show Greek art from its earliest (pre-Cycladic) manifestations until the seventh century B.C., while the adjacent Rollins Gallery continues the Greek story into Hellenistic times.

The small circular space, which previously displayed the statue of Leda, will open up to accommodate the museum’s continuing program of loans from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection in New York. A side gallery will be an intimate, villa-like setting for Roman art. In this way, the story of Greek and Roman art can be told respecting both chronological developments and thematic strands that traverse time.

This summer, the museum will announce plans for the reopening celebration and a schedule of educational programming and events for adults, children and families.