Fairfield University hosts first North American exhibition of stunning Acropolis photos on heels of Athens Summer Olympics


Fairfield University community and schoolchildren throughout the region will explore the vital, ongoing restoration at the Acropolis of Athens, Greece, through nearly 100 intriguing photographs to be unveiled in their first ever North American exhibition this fall at the University's Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery. "Photographs of the Athenian Acropolis: The Restoration Project," which is free and open to the public, will be on display from Wednesday, Sept. 15, through Sunday, Dec. 5, in the gallery, located in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

The exhibition is organized by The Acropolis Restoration Service of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Fairfield University.

"The Walsh Art Gallery is most fortunate to be the first North American venue for this stunning series of photographs," said gallery Director Diana Mille, Ph.D.

"The exhibition in Fairfield is timely since the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics will have just ended, thus attention and interest in Athens, its antiquities and its cultural traditions will be very much in the news," added Katherine Schwab, Ph.D., associate professor of art history at Fairfield.

The collection of nearly 100 black-and-white photographs, includes a photo of a section of the Parthenon's marble floor, details of architecture and sculpture and one very large color photograph of the Acropolis taken in late afternoon from the nearby hill of the Pnyx. Shot over a quarter of a century, it documents the ongoing work of the Acropolis Restoration Service, ARS, an organization formed in 1975 to painstakingly work on conservation and preservation of the ancient monuments of the Acropolis, one of the most recognized and revered examples of High Classical architecture in the world.

Formed by the Greek Ministry of Culture, the ARS is removing corroded 19th-century iron dowels and clamps as well as incorporating newly identified fragments of the structures. Each building has its own team of engineers, architects, conservators, stone-workers and other specialists who hope to stabilize and preserve the buildings for future generations.

The photographs that form the exhibit are the work of Socratis Mavrommatis, the chief photographer of the ARS. Long intrigued by the potential melding of art and scientific documentation through photography, he has chronicled the entire restoration, producing thousands of photos of the individual temples and buildings in summer's blazing heat, in different light and even the rare winter snowfall, revealing astonishing aerial views and whimsical close detail.

The photographs coming to Fairfield are organized into four elements: the Acropolis prior to restoration; detailed preparation efforts; the work itself; and images of the monuments throughout the process. The exhibit will also include a photo of a section of the Parthenon's marble floor and close-up photos of the 160-meter-long Parthenon frieze illustrating the procession to the Acropolis to honor the goddess Athena. The renowned frieze includes depictions of 360 divine and human figures and more than 250 animals.

The photographs were on exhibit in 2003 at University College in London, England, and have also been shown in Brussels and Rome. Fairfield University will host the first North American exhibition.

The link to Fairfield University stems from a professional friendship between Mavrommatis and Dr. Schwab, who makes frequent trips to Athens to conduct research on the Parthenon metopes. Mavrommatis will travel to Fairfield for a 10-day visit in September, during which he will collaborate with Dr. Mille and student interns for the installation in the gallery and lecture on photography and archaeology. At the exhibition's opening reception, he will introduce a 40-minute documentary film that he produced about the photos and the restoration, which will be screened regularly throughout the exhibition.

In addition to the reception, Mavrommatis will be available to meet with gallery visitors on Thursday, Sept. 16, and Friday, Sept. 17, before returning to Athens.

The exhibit - and related teaching materials and high-quality scale models that will be part of the permanent Fairfield University collections - will provide enormous educational opportunities for University students and educators and public school classes across the region.

Fairfield University professors are incorporating the exhibit into Art History, Studio Art, Music, Theater, Film/TV/Radio and Classical Studies classes and tie-ins are being considered for Philosophy, History, Education, Politics, honors programs and independent study projects.

The gallery will offer tours and activities for kindergarten through 12th grade teachers and students, university students and the public, incorporating detailed scale models and teaching kits.

Theatre Fairfield, the University's resident company, will present a Classical Greek play in the fall and the University plans to host a Greek film series in conjunction with the exhibit. Both events will be open to the public.

University officials expect the coming Olympic Games to spark renewed interest in Greece and its important architecture and archaeology. Mavrommatis sees his photographs as having a dual purpose for those who view them.

"The photographic documentation of the Acropolis monuments, before and during the restoration project, beyond its obvious necessity and value, serves as a historical apology for the changes made by the intervention," he said.

Admission to the exhibit is free. Hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call (203) 254-4010, ext. 2969.

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 28, 2004

Vol. 36, No. 241