"It is my profound belief that an exhibition in an educational institution should do more than please the eye and present 'originals,'" said Ioannis Mylonopoulos, a professor in the Department of Art History and Archaeology and curator of "The New Acropolis Museum," on view at the Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery. The exhibit contains little in the way of what would traditionally be considered "fine art"—instead, it incorporates architectural models, casts of classical Greek pottery and sculpture, and rare books and prints from Columbia's Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library. This selection of media gives the impression that the exhibit is more focused on the work that goes into the creation of art spaces and art appreciation than on art itself. The exhibit is largely dedicated to the architectural design of the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, which opened its doors to the public this past June. It is designed by Bernard Tschumi, a faculty member at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. Tschumi served as dean from 1988 to 2003, helping to transform the School of Architecture into the home of one of the world's most prestigious programs. Tschumi is also an internationally acclaimed architect, having designed numerous large-scale projects, ranging from the Parc de la Villette in Paris to Columbia's own Alfred Lerner Hall. His design for the Acropolis Museum is based around three concepts: light, movement, and program (the edifice's purpose as an exhibit space). Tschumi created a tri-level building, with a middle trapezoidal section jutting out at a dynamic angle and a rectangular glass box enveloping the top level. On view in the Wallach Gallery are several models of the Acropolis Museum, reproductions of Tschumi's drawings, and photographs of the interior of the museum. The exhibit also showcases various casts of objects from the Acropolis Museum's collection, including some archaic sculptures and reliefs from the Parthenon friezes. These casts cannot live up to the beauty of the originals, but they still offer viewers the opportunity to experience these works in a more engaging way than a simple photograph would. "In our exhibition, the visitor can experience ancient Greek art like in antiquity," Mylonopoulos said. "For this kind of experience, however, the question of whether these are originals or casts becomes irrelevant." The use of reproductions still raises interesting questions about what is "real" and what is "fake" in the art world. For example, one of the pieces on display in the exhibit is a cast of a cast. The upper part of the frieze is presented in cast form at the Acropolis Museum—the original is located in the British Museum—so visitors to the Wallach Gallery are looking at the reproduction of a reproduction. Reproductions have long played an important role in the study of Greek art. "We study today fifth-century Greek sculpture based mainly on Roman copies and not on originals," Mylonopoulos said. The Gallery has an unfortunately limited campus presence. Its Web site has not been updated since last spring, and it does little on-campus advertising other than a large but otherwise unremarkable banner outside of Schermerhorn. Still, "The New Acropolis Museum" is worth seeing. Although there are no objects of real value in the exhibit, the pieces presented are still both beautiful and useful educational tools. Mylonopoulos' choice of media and use of casts also encourages students to question their assumptions about what deserves a place in an exhibit and what is considered worthy of the elusive title of "art."
Columbia Spectator Staff