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Unique Australasian partnership brings British Museum show to the region

28 November 2019

A two-handled narrow necked vessel with representations of running figures painted around its side. - click to view larger image
Panathenaic amphora, Athens, Greece, 333–332 BCE. © The Trustees of the British Museum, 2019. All rights reserved

A major exhibition Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes from the British Museum featuring iconic objects that have never toured the southern hemisphere, is coming to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra in December 2020, as part of a major three venue Australasian tour.

In a groundbreaking collaboration, the National Museum of Australia, the Western Australian Museum and the Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum, have combined forces to bring the Ancient Greeks exhibition to the Australasian region for the first time.

Featuring some 170 objects which explore the theme of competition through sports, politics, drama, music and warfare, Ancient Greeks will open in New Zealand before starring at the National Museum from 4 December 2020, as the show’s first and only east coast Australian venue. The exhibition will then move to Western Australia where it will delight west coast audiences.

Opening at the end of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics year, the exhibition highlights the theme of competition and explores its role as a force for innovation and excellence.

National Museum of Australia director, Dr Mathew Trinca thanked the partner institutions and said the unique three-way collaboration is a model for future agreements, allowing cultural institutions to pool and leverage their resources, to bring world class shows of this type to their audiences.

'The National Museum is working creatively with its partners to pool resources to our mutual benefit and bring high quality exhibitions to our audiences as a result,' said Dr Trinca.

‘We are delighted to bring Ancient Greeks to east coast audiences, who I know will be mesmerised by the stories of competition in the ancient Greek world and by the beautiful depictions of athletes, the ceramics, sculptures, armour and jewellery featured in the show.’

Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes is the fourth in a series of British Museum exhibitions that have featured at the National Museum of Australia, following Rome: City and Empire (2018), A History of the World in 100 Objects (2016) and Encounters: Revealing Stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Objects from the British Museum (2015).

Alec Coles, Chief Executive of the Western Australian Museum said, 'this partnership is ground breaking as it creates a sustainable way for leading Trans-Tasman museums to bring the world’s treasures to the Southern Hemisphere.'

Auckland War Memorial Museum Chief Executive, Dr David Gaimster, said it is one of the most significant exhibitions the British Museum has toured to Australasia.

'This will enable Aucklanders and visitors to the city the opportunity to get up close and explore a wide range of artefacts never before seen in New Zealand.'

'As we acknowledge the 90th anniversary of Auckland War Memorial Museum in Auckland Domain, the influence of the ancient Greeks can be seen at this very site, reflected in the architecture of this iconic heritage building,' says Dr Gaimster.

Dr Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum said, 'This exhibition presents many masterpieces from the British Museum’s world famous collection. The objects have enlightened our understanding of the ancient Greek world and have been brought together to tell a unique story for this exhibition. We are delighted to work alongside the National Museum of Australia, the Western Australian Museum and the Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum, to share these collections for the first time across Australasia.'

Artistic, physical and intellectual competition pervaded ancient Greek society, which in turn, influenced language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, and the arts around the world.

Key objects in the show include iconic black and red ceramics featuring finely drawn depictions of athletes, gods and citizens; stunning marble and terracotta, statues and reliefs — including many fine nudes; bronze figurines; weapons and armour; toys and games; fine gold jewellery; and coins.

Exhibition dates

Auckland War Memorial Museum, 3 July to 18 October 2020
National Museum of Australia, 4 Dec 2020 to 27 April 2021
Western Australian Museum, 2021

Media contact: Tracy Sutherland, 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or media@nma.gov.au

British Museum international touring exhibitions

The British Museum aims to share its rich and diverse collection, together with its curatorial expertise, with a worldwide audience through a program of international touring exhibitions. Touring exhibitions draw on the expertise of world-class curators, conservation experts, scientists, project managers and many other Museum professionals who are able to support the exhibition at every stage of development.

Logos. National Museum of Australia. The British Museum. Auckland War Memorial Museum. Government of Western Australia. Western Australian Museum

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