The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) is offering a rare opportunity to all interested in viewing exquisite ancient art. “Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome” opened a month ago as the museum’s fall show and features an exceptionally vast collection of art, with over 150 pieces on display.
Shockingly, the exhibition was almost canceled due to negotiation issues between CMA and Sicily. Sicily, in a move some called extortion, requested CMA pay additional fees of $700,000.
However, despite the turbulence, CMA and Sicily were thankfully able to reach a compromise. David Franklin, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, says what finally “broke the logjam” was the offer to loan Sicily the Crucifixion of St. Andrew, one of CMA’s most renowned and prized pieces.
In return, CMA received the Sicilian art, among which is one of the world’s most astounding pieces of ancient art, the Motya Charioteer.
This piece may very well be considered the highlight of the exhibit. In fact, CMA finds this piece exceptional enough to have given it an entire room of its own. The walls in this room also have cutaways, which assure viewers see the statue as soon as they enter the exhibition.
Maggie Popkin, an art history professor at Case Western Reserve University, says the charioteer is “one of the most famous Greek statues in the world, and who knows when—or even if—Sicily will agree to let it travel to America.”
While most of us may not be able to distinguish Ancient Sicilian art from Ancient Greek and Roman art, Popkin, whose specialty is Ancient Roman art, can clarify this for us.
“Sicily was truly the crossroads of a number of cultures,” says Popkin. “Many of the objects in this exhibition show how ancient Sicilians took these diverse cultural traditions and forged them into something uniquely Sicilian. The Motya Charioteer, for example, [displays] an exciting pose, with virtuosically carved, clinging drapery.”
There are several more noteworthy items in the exhibition as well. Among these items are several gorgeous terracotta vases, the bust of a monstrous Cyclops and intricately detailed silver coins, which Popkin assures are not to be overlooked.
The other main exhibit in the show is the Phiale Mesomphalos, a golden libation bowl. This piece is a surviving remnant of ancient culture that is comparable to only four other objects in the entire world.
Popkin believes CMA’s ability to acquire these internationally recognized objects is indicative of the museum’s high caliber. We often forget how lucky we are to have such a distinguished institution right in our backyard.
Members of University Circle should be sure to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The exhibition will remain at the Cleveland Museum of Art until Jan. 5. Student tickets are available.