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September 13, 2004
New Greek and Roman galleries to open, Sept. 18
By allison germaneso dixon
One of the Carlos Museum’s signature collections has undergone a dramatic transformation that will reshape the institution’s look, as well as its impact. On Sept. 18, the New Galleries of Greek and Roman Art will open, marking the debut of nearly 100 recently acquired classical treasures, integrated with 250 previous holdings, in an opulent setting designed with renowned architect Michael Graves and Associates.
Featured will be such items as marble, bronze and terra cotta sculpture, vases, jewelry, gems, glass and objects of everyday use. The exhibition spans some 5,000 years of Greek art, from pre-Cycladic beginnings until Roman times, including a striking portrait of the emperor Tiberius, accepted by scholars to be the top piece of Roman imperial portraiture in America and the finest depiction of the emperor in existence.
The Carlos Museum has been collecting Greek and Roman art for nearly 20 years; namesake Michael Carlos’ 1999 pledge of $10 million for classical acquisitions accelerated this growth and served as the impetus for the galleries’ renovation and redesign. In 2001, the museum recruited a full-time curator, Jasper Gaunt, to steward the collection and seek the best possible additions. The rapid growth of the collection in size and quality has captured international attention, and scholars now name it among the top five university-owned classical art collections in the United States.
“Dr. Gaunt has conceived an imaginative presentation that achieves more than a new look with more objects; he has created a more accessible and effective environment for visitors to understand the beauty of these objects, as well as their purpose and importance,” said museum Director Bonnie Speed. “In short, the Carlos family’s generosity and vision, paired with Jasper’s remarkable curatorial abilities, are rare and powerful combination that benefits the entire region.”
“Through the generosity of Mrs. Carlos, who has continued to advance the vision of her late husband, we have been able to acquire Greek and Roman antiquities of a quality and significance 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—or, in the case of our marble portrait of Tiberius, in the world.”
Museum designers worked closely with Gaunt and Graves to create an environment that presents the collections to their best advantage. In addition to new cases, pedestals and niches, new lighting, and new paint and fabrics, the reinstallation maximizes use of wall texts, photographs, maps and charts to convey essential background contextual information.
The central gallery space, named Carlos Court, displays some of the largest and most significant objects of Greek and Roman art in the collection. The Laszlo-Brummer Gallery shows 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 a statue of Leda, now accommodates the museum’s continuing program of loans from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection in New York. Other noteworthy loans include the Burke Nicholson Collection of Early Greek Coinage, the finest in the South, on public exhibition for the first time anywhere.
A side gallery serves as an intimate, villa-like setting for Roman art. In this way, the story of Greek and Roman art is told respecting both chronological developments and thematic strands that traverse time, with a clear and comprehensive voice.
The quality of recent acquisitions and their presence in Atlanta has garnered special notice and attention from classicists and classical enthusiasts worldwide. To celebrate and document the occasion of the reinstallation, scholars from international institutions will comment through essays on selected works. These essays will be bound in a booklet (available for sale in the museum bookshop) that will give visitors an opportunity to learn more about the objects and to experience the scholarship of a wide breadth of experts.