Something Old, Something New at the Ackland

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DSC_0550Originally published in the Ackland’s Member E-Newsletter of 31 July 2015.

Dear Friends,

Because of our commitment to engage the Ackland’s permanent collection, I cannot resist mentioning the excitement around our current exhibition highlighting and rethinking our holdings of painting and sculpture since 1960.

“It changed the way I think,” said one visitor from the Galloway Ridge retirement community in Pittsboro.

“Amazing selection of wonderful works. The Sean Scully painting is sublime – just one of many surprises!! Many unknown names, at least to me, producing fascinating work!! I’ll be bringing friends many times!!” wrote a former museum director from the area.

My thanks to all of you for talking about the Ackland! Because of you Testing Testing is rapidly becoming the exhibition to see and comment on!

7746d294-b23b-4986-a616-0a956a0d8034But my main focus today is on a very different, but no less important part of the collection: Art of the Ancient Mediterranean. I am thrilled to announce the publication of a full scholarly catalogue of 227 works of art from many parts of the ancient Mediterranean world, including works from Egypt and the Nile Valley, Mesopotamia, Iran, Cyprus, Greece and Italy and ranging in date from around 5000 BCE to 1100 CE. An appendix documents the recent gift of an additional 211 ancient coins. Beautifully illustrated with gorgeous new color photography, this catalogue showcases a significant and valuable collection as never before. Our author is Professor Mary C. Sturgeon, just retired from a most distinguished career as Professor of Classical Art at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has triumphantly brought to a conclusion a project that began well over a decade ago in seminars with graduate students researching these Ackland objects. The publication, with 344 pages and 727 color plates, is now available at the Ackland Museum Store ($80 for members, non-members $100).

Let me conclude by simply quoting a few lines from my foreword to the book: “The works of art themselves must be silently grateful to have received the careful and expert attention of so sympathetic a scholar. Her fine-grained essay on the institutional growth of the collection (and the personalities involved) is a fine complement to the judicious assessment of the individual objects within that collection. The Ackland and its works of art from the Ancient Mediterranean are deeply indebted to Professor Sturgeon.”

Indeed, I can well imagine visitors to our ancient art gallery reading this book and also exclaiming; “It changed the way I think!…Amazing selection of works…Many surprises…Fascinating work!”.

Old art or new, there are always surprises at the Ackland!


Peter Nisbet

Ackland Art Museum Chief Curator and Interim Director


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