From the minute people walk into the Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, their eyes are instantly drawn to the spectacular statue of Nike, the Greek ‘Goddess of Victory.’
The statue is one of the centrepieces of the exhibition, along with 169 other objects from the British Museum’s collection of Greek treasures dating from 800 BCE to 200 CE.
The Greek Herald got an exclusive preview of this exhibition during today’s media launch and can confirm that the wide-range of black-figured amphoras and marble reliefs depicting scenes and people from Ancient Greece definitely didn’t disappoint.
‘No items of contention’:
The artefacts invoke a sense of pride in the Greek culture and heritage and this was a point the President of the Greek Orthodox Community and Church of Canberra (GOCCC), John Loukadellis, touched on in his speech during the launch.
“I find it very fitting, very respectful that as we walk into this amazing theatre here today that the first piece that greets us is the Goddess Nike or the Goddess of Victory,” Mr Loukadellis said.
“The way I see it, this exhibition, with great thanks to the British Museum and our friends here at the National Museum, is a great Nike [victory] for everyone around Australia who love their culture, who love the ancient civilisation stories and who also is a friend of history.”
Mr Loukadellis also said the exhibition holds ‘no items of contention’ from the British Museum and encouraged everyone to visit.
Exhibition not possible without Greek community support:
During the media launch, a number of other prominent members of the Canberra community also gave speeches including the CEO of the National Museum, Dr Mathew Trinca and the ACT Assistant Minister for Economic Development, Tara Cheyne.
Dr Trinca stressed how delighted he is to finally be able to bring the Ancient Greeks exhibition to Canberra following a 12-month delay due to COVID-19. He also thanked the Greek community for their support.
“Had it not been for the Greek Australian community here in Canberra, that has come so strongly to come and support this presentation, I’m not sure we would have received it,” the National Museum CEO said.
“But I can’t wait to see people come into this exhibition and really enjoy what it tells us about the common imagination we have about the Greek world and how it informs our present but also, in a sense, just a simple opportunity to come together.”
Minister Cheyne reflected Dr Trinca’s comments and said it’s a privilege to finally be able to view the British Museum collection.
“It is a celebration of Greek culture and history seen through that prism of competition which informed all the aspects of the ancient Greek world, including childhood, society and sport,” Minister Cheyne said.
‘Look forward to local reaction’:
Next to speak were the National Museum Curator, Dr Lily Withycombe, and the Director of the British Museum, Dr Hartwig Fischer, via a video message.
In his message, Dr Fischer praised the “formidable working relationship” between the National Museum of Australia and the British Museum as they collaborated closely to ensure the exhibition went ahead. He also spoke briefly about the exhibition.
“Ancient Greek artefacts form a vital part of the British Museum’s collection and this exhibition brings together some of the most fascinating objects…” Dr Fischer said.
“So we look forward to hearing our local audience respond to these objects and sculptures.”
For her part, Dr Withycombe went into detail about what is on offer during the exhibition, making special reference to the two objects the National Museum was able to select specifically for Ancient Greeks.
These are: (1) a black-figured amphora showing the Greek warrior Achilles slaying the Amazon Queen Penthesileia (about 540–530 BCE), signed by Exekias, the renowned Athenian potter and painter; (2) and a marble relief known as the Apotheosis of Homer (about 220–200 BCE) signed by its maker, Archelaos of Priene.
“We just hope that people are able to come and see the exhibition, people from the Greek community but also the wider Australian public. We just think that in a time when you can’t travel and you can’t have holidays, this really will be this immersive holiday experience,” Dr Withycombe concluded.
Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes is at the National Museum of Canberra from 17 December 2021 to 1 May 2022. Tickets $28. For bookings see: https://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/ancient-greeks.
* All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.