Monday, August 6, 2012

'Gifts from the Gods: Art and the Olympic Ideal' at the Legion

Pindar wrote:

But if, my heart, you wish to sing of contests, look no further for any star warmer than the sun, shining by day through the lonely sky, and let us not proclaim any contest greater than Olympia. From there glorious song enfolds the wisdom of poets...

The Greeks sacrificed 100 oxen to Zeus in honor of the games. I suspect that contemporary opening ceremonies and rituals are comparably expensive.  The Greeks also competed sans clothing: I wouldn't mind that being revived for the Olympics!

Wreath. Greek, Hellenistic period, 4th–3rd century BC
Gold. Albert Campbell Hooper Memorial Purchase. Photograph © FAMSF

Gifts from the Gods: Art and the Olympic Ideal now showing at the Legion presents a selection of works from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s permanent collection supplemented by loans of antiquities.


Eric Gill (British, 1882–1940). The Tennis Player, 1923. Wood engraving
Gift of Pamela Forbes. Photograph © FAMSF

Celebrating the Olympian ideal, the exhibition features ancient Greek and Roman coinage, contemporary work from artists including Robert Mapplethorpe, Diane Arbus and Alex Katz, advertising labels, and a variety of sculptures, works on paper, antiquities, and textiles.

The show is charming and it was a delight to see the Hellenistic wreath again which I remember from the old de Young Museum.

Looking at images on coins without being able to pick them up is not easy. While the historical background is fascinating, the small images are difficult to make out as they must (of necessity) be seen through a glass case.

 Walter Camp's Book of College Sports, 1893. Color lithograph
Printed by Armstrong and Co. Ltd., Boston. Bequest of Arthur W. Barney. Photograph © FAMSF

But the modern art, posters and wide variety of contemporary and local media are superb. I tend to forget about graphic artists like Eric Gill and the poster from Walter Camp's book of College Sports was charming.

Images courtesy FAMSF/photographer Andrew Fox
legionofhonor.org

Pindar quote from: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0162%3Abook%3DO.%3Apoem%3D1

2 comments:

Zoomie said...

Thanks for the tip - I will hustle on in to the city to see this one, one day soon.

namastenancy said...

Maybe we can hustle together? They have a nice cafe there.