On March 9, the Onassis Cultural Center New York will bring to vivid life the emotions of the people of ancient Greece, and prompt questions about how we express, control, manipulate, or simulate feelings in our own society, by presenting its groundbreaking exhibition A World of Emotions: Ancient Greece, 700 BC – 200 AD.
On view through June 24, 2017 exclusively at the Onassis Cultural Center New York, where admission is always free, the exhibition brings together more than 130 masterpieces from some of the world’s leading museums—including the Acropolis Museum, Athens; National Archaeological Museum, Athens; Musée du Louvre (Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities), Paris; British Museum, London; and Musei Vaticani, Vatican City—to explore the ideas and attitudes of people in classical antiquity toward emotion and the ways in which the emotions were depicted, revealing how some are strikingly familiar to us and some shockingly alien. Although ancient Greece is often said to have been flooded with the light of reason, A World of Emotions lays bare the far different reality addressed in the Iliad, whose very first word is menis: wrath.
Developed by a team of esteemed guest curators, A World of Emotions will feature vase paintings, sculptures (ranging from life-size statues from the Acropolis to relief carvings from cemeteries), theatrical masks, amulets, coins, and votive offerings, among other artifacts from the early 7th century BC (the traditional date of the Iliad) to the late 2nd century AD. Many will be on view in the United States for the first time, and some will be seen for the first time outside Greece. Together, these objects provide a timely opportunity to think about the role of feelings in our own personal, social, and political lives, while helping to advance the relatively new field of the history of emotions.
Accompanying the exhibition to create a spring season dedicated to the theme of emotions will be a cross-disciplinary constellation of other artworks, programs, and events. A vibrant large-scale diptych painting, Black Frames, commissioned from multimedia artist Jannis Varelas will be installed on the Art Wall in the Onassis Cultural Center New York’s atrium space. Philosopher Simon Critchley and author John Freeman will host the peripatetic conversation series Let’s Walk, engaging celebrated guests such as actress Fiona Shaw and author Judith Thurman in discussions in the gallery. A regular schedule of guided tours and family programs will be provided, and on April 3, in collaboration with the Axion Estin Foundation, the Onassis Cultural Center New York will host a concert of Byzantine hymns for Holy Week, performed in the gallery. In a lighter vein, illustrator Brooke Barker, author of the bestselling Sad Animal Facts, will produce a series of drawings spinning off emotions for the spring season, which will be posted weekly on the Onassis Cultural Center New York’s website and social media and displayed on a video monitor in the gallery foyer.
Dr. Anthony Papadimitriou, President of the Onassis Foundation, said, “A World of Emotions and the programs that accompany it are powerful expressions of the mission of the Onassis Foundation: to support initiatives in education and culture as a means to achieve social cohesion. Although this exhibition is a rare and thoughtful thematic gathering of beautiful and fascinating objects from the ancient world, it is also much more: a contribution toward a better understanding of our present-day reality. We are deeply grateful to our distinguished guest curators for this important exhibition and its revelatory catalogue.”
Amalia Cosmetatou, Executive Director and Cultural Director of the Onassis Foundation USA, said, “Thanks to the brilliant work of our guest curators, A World of Emotions will make an important new contribution to scholarship, while bringing the public into the presence of objects that still have the power to move and astonish more than 2,000 years after they were made.”