Friday, November 12, 2010

Onassis Cultural Center in New York Exhibits Greek Art in its Heroes Collection

Last month, the Onassis Cultural Center in Midtown Manhattan opened a fascinating new exhibit entitled “Heroes: Mortals and Myths in Ancient Greece”. This exhibit spans three periods of ancient Greek art, the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic eras, and features over ninety works of art from both American and European collections. The pieces represent all different media and techniques, including a black-figure amphora depicting Achilles and Ajax playing a board game outside Troy (which dates from the late 6th century BCE) and a gold medallion with the bust of Alexander the Great (218-235 CE).

The theme for the collection is the concept of heroes, which to the ancient Greeks, was a very different idea from the way we view it today. Ancient Greece, it seems, was teeming with heroes, both mythical and mortal, many of whom were commemorated in art. This exhibit seeks to explore the ancient Greek idea of a hero through the artwork created from the 6th century to the 1st century BCE. Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, Executive Director of the Onassis Foundation (USA) stated, “People today think of the Greek heroes and heroines as great fictional characters invented by poets and storytellers, but to the ancient Greeks, these were real men and women who had lived, died, and then somehow transcended death,” (

The exhibit has three sections, the first of which is titled “Heroes in Myth”. This part of the exhibit focuses on four figures, Herakles, Achilles, Odysseus, and Helen, and the masterpieces that their legendary deeds inspired. The second section, “Heroes in Cult”, focuses on the metaphorical immortality of ancient Greek heroes: even after their death, they were venerated for being figures who greatly contributed to Greek society and civilization. In ancient times, shrines were erected to honor these heroes, and it was at these shrines that they were worshipped by many followers. The third section of the exhibit, “Heroes as Role Models”, investigates the influence of heroes on the common people of ancient Greece, particularly how ordinary people modeled their own behavior on the virtues of popular heroes.

The exhibit runs until January 3, 2011, and admission is free.

For more information, please visit:

1 comment:

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