temporary museum

Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens:

Temporary exhibition: “Domenikos Theotokopoulos before El Greco”

Painting with a map of Greece and the Aegean sea (16th century). Tempera on wood. From Florence. Loaned by the Benaki Museum.

Part of the exhibition about Cretan culture from the 16th to the 17th century.

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(Thessaloniki) Museum of the Roman Forum:

From the temporary exhibition “…young and in excellent health”, Aspects of youths’ life in ancient Macedonia.

Statue of Dionysus, god of theater, wine-making and wine. (Roman period)

The show must go on

Christopher Stewart is Project Co-ordinator for temporary exhibitions at the British Museum. Here he explains some of the behind-the-scenes challenges he faces.

‘So, you’ve just spent an enjoyable couple of hours in a British Museum exhibition. Near the exit, before you enter the gift shop to spend your money on souvenirs, you’ll often see an acknowledgements panel. Most people walk past it, but next time pause for a second. You’ll find a long list of generous contributors to the exhibition, including a list of lenders from across the world. This list is a very useful summary of my role.

‘It’s my job to make arrangements for the loan of objects from other museums, galleries and private lenders, and plan how to install them in the exhibition. This can be logistically challenging, especially if two lenders from different continents are in the same showcase, or if an object is too big to fit in the lift!

‘I rely on the expertise of a whole team of people behind the scenes, from Designers to Collections Managers to heavy object specialists. Often lenders send couriers to escort their objects, so I also ensure they are looked after during their stay in London. After all, sending a priceless object somewhere can be a complicated business. Imagine packing your most precious possession in a box, sending it halfway across the world through two busy airports, to a place you’ve possibly never been to before.

‘Thankfully, we have a lot of experience borrowing and lending objects, and work with many trusted friends and colleagues across the world to bring a world of treasures safely to the Museum.’

Arrival and installation of loan objects for our temporary exhibitions on Vikings (2014) and Celts (2015). 

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Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens:

Temporary exhibition:“Domenikos Theotokopoulos before El Greco”. A religious icon by Domenikos Theotokopoulos presenting the Dormition of the Virgin.

This icon from Syros is the most artistically complete work to have survived from Theotokopoulos’ Cretan period. Various Western elements (Metastasis of the Mother of God, the Holy Ghost, candlesticks) have been introduced into the Byzantine iconographic style. The figures are naturally rendered and modeled and move easily in space, while the color and light serve to unite the earthly and the heavenly. The scene is transcendental and realistic in equal measures. The work was probably the last of the three surviving works from Theotokopoulos’ Cretan period to have been painted. This hypothesis is reinforced by the artist’s signature that reads “displayed by Domenikos Theotokopoulos” instead of the earlier “By the hand of Domenikos”. The new signature reveals the artist’s scholarship and is expressive of a mature artistic personality.

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Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens:

Temporary exhibition: “Domenikos Theotokopoulos before El Greco”

Embroidered Cretan costume from the 17th century. Loaned by the Benaki Museum.

Part of the exhibition about Cretan culture from the 16th to the 17th century.

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Byzantine Museum of Veroia:

Icons and murals from the temporary exhibition “Panagia Mou”/“My Virgin Mary”. The exhibition presents the wealth of iconographic tradition in the region of Imathia from the 15th to the 21st century when it comes to the presentation of the most popular figure of Eastern Orthodoxy.

What is really interesting about the conservation of these type of murals and icons is the fact that it provided a safe and extensive practice ground for the Greek conservators. The technical knowledge safely earned from the conservation of these artifacts actually prepared the ground for the safe and one of a kind conservation of the Bronze Age murals from Thera, Pylos and Argos. Interestingly enough as we gain more and more knowledge about these prehistoric murals it is being proven that we are not dealing so much with frescoes, but rather egg tempera- the durable layered painting process using egg yolk as a binder for pigment that can be observed in most byzantine styled icons. Such discoveries help redefine the history of painting in greek space and by extension european space. Hariclia Brecoulaki is the archaeologist and conservator behind these breakthrough discoveries.

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Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens:

Temporary exhibition: “Domenikos Theotokopoulos before El Greco”

Bulla issued by Pope Leo X on the privileges of the Greeks. Printed by Antonio Vortolis in Greek, Venice, 1755. Reissue of the papal bulla (1521) in favour of the Uniate Greeks, forbidding Latin priests to celebrate mass in Orthodox churches and Latin bishops to ordain Greek clergy. Loaned by the Alexandros Onasis Public Benefit Foundation.

Musical manuscript possibly from Crete with Latin hymns in Greek. It was used in the ceremonial of the Holy Week processions, in which the faithful of both churches (Catholic/Orthodox) took part. Loaned by the Platytera Monasteri, in Kerkyra. (mid17th century)

An illustrated manuscript by scholar and painter Georgios Klontzas, with texts of a historical and prophetic nature. The scene depicts a religious procession (litany) which took place in Chandax (Candia) on the second Thursday after Pentecost, the day on which the feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated with the participation of the Authorities and the entire population of the city. Loaned by the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, in Venice. (1590-92)

Part of the exhibition about Cretan culture from the 16th to the 17th century.

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Museum of the Roman Forum (Thessaloniki):

From the temporary exhibition “…young and in excellent health” Aspects of youths’ life in Ancient Macedonia

Red figure lekythos with a depiction of Hermes slaying Argos- the hundred-eyed guardian of the transformed Ιο-, by the Pan Painter, found in Ancient Aphytis. (470-460 B.C)

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Byzantine and Christian Museum of Athens:

Temporary exhibition: “Domenikos Theotokopoulos before El Greco”

The Battle of Lepanto (7 October 1571)

The naval battle marked the culmination of a drawn-out struggle for control of the Mediterranean. It was fought between the forces of the Ottoman Empire and the Sacra Lega Antiturca (The Sacred Antiturk Legue) which combined the forces of Spain, Venice and the Pope. Although it ended in victory for the Christian forces, it did not leave the Ottoman Empire drastically weakened. Crete, under the rule of Venice at the time along with other Greek islands, fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1669. During the siege- which lasted almost 21 years- Crete managed to produce few of its most lasting literary works and experience an unprecedented cultural radiance. 

Pictured above: Ballista, morion type helmet, chest armour and armour gloves (late 16th early 17th century). Loaned by the Hellenic Armed Forces Officer’s Club and the Athens War Museum.

Part of the exhibition about Cretan culture from the 16th to the 17th century.

Museum of the Roman Forum (Thessaloniki):

A terracotta figurine of a woman kneading breads, from Ancient Akanthos (5th-6th century B.C)

Lesson learned: never leave your boss unsupervised.

Anonymous submitted: 

While I (the Exhibitions manager) was out of the office checking on potential loans for a new display, my boss decides to take in a loan without telling or consulting me. It should be mentioned that this boss has NO museum experience whatsoever. None. Zero. Zip. I’m pretty sure they have been to a museum like 4 times in their life.

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Anyways, when I return my boss alerts me that I need to place the two pieces in the temporary exhibition as soon as possible because they are from a very important potential donor. 

I am given no background information, no verbiage for the pieces, no values for insurance, and no budget to create pedestals to display them. 

How temporary is this exhibition to which we are now adding this additional content? It closes in 2 weeks. That’s how temporary.