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Stunning British Museum collection comes to Canberra


Pictured above: Panathenaic prize amphora. The keles. Horse Racing. Black figure pottery. Made in Athens about 500 - 490 BCE.

C. Trustees of the British Museum 2021. All rights reserved.


A compelling exhibition exploring the theme of competition in the Ancient Greek world and featuring stunning objects from the British Museum’s collection, opens at the National Museum of Australia on Friday, 17 December.

Following a 12-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes opens at the National Museum in Canberra as the nation emerges from lockdown.


With Canberra as its only east coast venue, the Ancient Greeks exhibition features more than 170 objects from the British Museum’s collection of Greek treasures, with artefacts dating from 800 BCE to 200 CE.


National Museum director, Dr Mathew Trinca, said: “We are delighted to finally be able to bring this spectacular exhibition to Canberra.

“Australians have endured months of lockdown and uncertainty, and we are thrilled to give them such a magnificent international exhibition experience after what has been one of the most difficult periods in our nation’s history,” Dr Trinca said.

“The legacy of Ancient Greece endures in our society today, and visitors 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 on show,” Dr Trinca said.


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).


Dr Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum said: “We at the British Museum are delighted that Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes will open imminently at the National Museum of Australia.

“This wonderful exhibition is the result of tireless efforts and contributions made by staff at the National Museum of Australia, the Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip, the Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum, and the British Museum. The exhibition has been many years in the making and the British Museum is extraordinarily proud of this partnership. We hope that audiences in Canberra will enjoy and be inspired by the magnificent objects and stories woven throughout the Ancient Greeks exhibition,” Dr Fischer said.


Dr Peter Higgs, British Museum acting keeper Greek collections, said: “I am so pleased that the exhibition Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes is going to our partner museum in Canberra. Despite the worldwide pandemic and the immense challenges it has created, we have all worked together to achieve this momentous task.

“Following the pandemic, we seized the opportunity to develop collaborative new approaches to our international installation practices, all the while adhering to our tightest processes. A huge thank you to everyone who has been involved with this exhibition. We hope you are able to go and see The Greeks and immerse yourselves in the stimulating narratives and stunning ancient artefacts,” Dr Higgs said.


Tara Cheyne, ACT Assistant Minister for Economic Development, said: “As part of the ACT Government’s ongoing commitment to the tourism, events, arts and cultural sectors, we are very pleased to be supporting the National Museum of Australia in staging this exhibition. The welcome return of blockbuster exhibitions will play an important role in the social and economic recovery of the Canberra region – and provides yet another great reason for our interstate visitors to organise a trip to the nation’s capital.”


Ancient Greeks is the result of a groundbreaking collaboration between the Western Australian Museum, the National Museum of Australia, and the Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum, which combined forces to bring the exhibition to Australasia for the first time. Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes was on display at the Western Australian Museum from 20 June to 7 November 2021, and will be on show at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand from 10 June to 16 October 2022.


Ancient Greeks: Athletes, Warriors and Heroes is at the National Museum of Canberra from 17 December 2021 to 1 May 2022. Tickets $28. For bookings see https://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/ancient-greeks

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