First North American exhibition of stunning Acropolis photos to open at Fairfield University


Image: Acropolis

On the heels of the Olympic Games in Athens, Fairfield University will celebrate Greek antiquities this fall with the first ever North American exhibition of nearly 100 photographs of the ongoing Acropolis restoration project. The presentation will also feature companion exhibits, a production of a classic Greek drama and intriguing workshops for schoolteachers and students.  On Wednesday, Sept. 15, the University's Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery will unveil "Photographs of the Athenian Acropolis: The Restoration Project." This much-anticipated exhibition by photographer Socratis Mavrommatis documents more than 25 years of work by the Acropolis Restoration Service of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture (ARS). This team of experts is charged with preserving and conserving the ancient monuments of one of the most recognized and revered examples of High Classical architecture in the world.

The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, will be on display through Sunday, Dec. 5, in the gallery, located in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. Mavrommatis will be on hand at the opening and will introduce excerpts from two films on the restoration, including footage never shown outside Athens. On Thursday, Sept. 16, at 5 p.m. he will present a free public lecture on the restoration in the Quick Center's Wien Experimental Theatre.

The exhibit is funded, in part, by the Schecter Foundation and sponsored by the Fairfield University Humanities Institute.

"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., who has worked with colleague Katherine Schwab, Ph.D., associate professor of art history at Fairfield, to organize the exhibit and related activities.

Dr. Schwab will present "The Athenian Acropolis: New Discoveries," a public lecture on the restoration and the treasures of the Acropolis, on Wednesday, October 6, at 12:30 p.m. in the Walsh Art Gallery. Tickets are $5.

Mostly shot in black and white, the collection 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.

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.

Mavrommatis, the ARS' chief photographer, has had access to all phases of the project. 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 also includes 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, and have also been shown in Brussels and Rome.

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 spend 10 days at Fairfield, during which he will collaborate with Dr. Mille and student interns for the installation in the gallery and lecture on photography and archaeology. 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.

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. Teachers at Holy Family Roman Catholic School in Fairfield will incorporate the exhibit into social studies classes for all students in grades 5 through 8. Students identified as gifted and talented through a Johns Hopkins University program will also include the exhibit in their studies.

Four large plaster casts on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including two stunning sections of the Parthenon frieze, will grace the Quick Center lobby during the Acropolis exhibit.

Theatre Fairfield, the University's resident theater company, will present Aristophanes' "The Birds," 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.

The Quick Center will exhibit a series of albumen photo prints of the Parthenon frieze taken by British photographer W.A. Mansell in the 1880s. The photos will be placed side by side with similar shots by Mavrommatis, offering intriguing comparisons of a century's effect on the site.

Fairfield University professors are incorporating the exhibit into Art History, Studio Art, Music, Theater, Film/TV/Radio and Classical Studies.

University officials expect the 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.

The exhibit will open to the public at a 6 p.m. reception on Sept. 15. Museum hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call (203) 254-4000, ext. 2969.

Bookmark and Share

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

Posted on August 25, 2004

Vol. 37, No. 31